Annette ★★★½

The opening number “So May We Start” is so good, so goddamn transcendently good. Unfortunately, the film never hit that level for me again. There are so many great ideas in this, but it never quite hung together. Instead, I felt like Annette was constantly chasing the shadow of Ken Russell’s Tommy and the absurdism of Being John Malkovich, without the gut punch immediacy of either.

Still, I’m certainly glad I watched The Sparks Brothers documentary before this, I think it gave me a better prism through which to understand the Mael’s aims and pseudo-ironic metier (and this felt more like a Mael project than a Carax project in some ineffable way, though the director makes his presence known). Numbers like “We Love Each Other So Much” - both a love song and a cruel mockery of a love song - are such a perfect encapsulation of the Mael’s sensibility.

The cast may have been part of the problem. Driver is always great, but his singing is awkward and draws attention to itself, and, frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal of Marion Cotillard, she’s like wallpaper to me. She gets out-acted here by a Gelfling puppet.

I’m going to have to ruminate on this one and revisit it, but for now I’m putting it in the ambitious, fascinating misfire category. Which is not a terrible category to be in.

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