Annette ★★

Sunk at sea.

Annette is so ambitious. Indeed, it’s too ambitious. There are so many ideas, yet so many loose threads. It’s difficult to go into detail about any of them without dipping into spoiler territory. Suffice it to say, there’s too much happening, and it doesn’t come together into one coherent whole.

One such idea I will mention is the comedy routine for Adam Driver’s character, Henry McHenry, which occurs shortly after the prologue. The idea is to turn McHenry into some sort of comedian / avant-garde performance artist hybrid. The execution is pretty horrendous; one of the most dislikable scenes I’ve seen in any movie in a long time. But there must be a reason for it, right? No… there’s no reason ever presented as to why he’s this weird hybrid.

Sadly, there are more problems. The progression of McHenry never feels deserved; he just jumps from weird celebrity to… really not nice guy. Meanwhile, Marion Cotillard’s Ann Desfranoux, as well as the titular Annette (at least until the end for the latter) offer very little other than stand-in plot devices. Surprisingly, it’s Simon Helberg’s supporting The Accompanist that offers the most complete character.

But it’s the out-of-nowhere angry McHenry who takes the primary stage over his marginalized, yet more interesting family characters. The story would’ve benefitted from a stronger juxtaposition and counterbalance between the married couple.

The musical numbers are frustratingly hit & miss, and much more the latter. The opening is really good, and the finale is great. But everything else in between is forgettable and uninteresting.

Is director Leos Carax’s musical mocking Hollywood musicals of yore, as some have suggested? This was never even intimated to me; everything felt sincere in its approach. So, if satire was the intent, it failed there, too.

Furthermore, the message is the furthest from subtle, while the story is highly predictable. This is a prime example of minute counting, because everything is telegraphed or obvious.

Now there are positives: other than Helberg’s solid performance, Driver is outstanding in his poorly written role. I don’t know if it’s his best work yet, but it’s up there; especially in that finale. And the film is technically well made. The pacing is fine with 140 minutes being less rough than I anticipated (it still should’ve been 20+ mins shorter); helping this was a second half that was multiples better than the first. The lighting, production design, and sound effects were all impressive, too.

As a fan of Holy Motors, I was looking forward to this. But Carax forces an unjustified bizarre tone with the Sparks' unpleasant musical idiosyncrasies in a script that needed major tightening.

Annette is a major disappointment that’s little more than Weird for the Sake of Weird Cinema.

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