David’s review published on Letterboxd:
I guess I liked it? I mean there's definitely a lot here to admire, but this movie is very messy, both in terms of the style and the substance. It is an admirable kind of messy, and one that does manage to pull off being a unique and singular work instead of just plain incompetence. Yet it still does have a fair bit weighing it down that I wouldn't call it entirely successful as a film. For one, this movie is a lot to take in story-wise. It is a fairly coherent work despite the surrealism and abstraction, yet it also is one of those movies with a shotgun approach to the themes and messaging. It wants to talk about toxic masculinity, fractured love, the fickle nature of fame, and child celebrity culture, and often it can feel rather inconsistent with what the movie is saying as it tries to tackle all these things at once. You could say that Leos Carax's previous movie, Holy Motors, does the same thing, but at least with Holy Motors it does feel like Carax has an idea of what he wants to say specifically about art and performance that he doesn't just throw all he wants to say on his mind right now in a blender. It makes for an often fractured film with certain themes and topics not getting enough focus or weight than they really should. It also means certain characters don't get proper development either, and the story can feel fairly lopsided. Regardless, the central story with Adam Driver's character is engaging, despite him being a pretty terrible guy (which the movie does acknowledge and I don't believe we are to be entirely sympathetic to him), and there are plenty of potent imagery, symbolism, and set pieces, thanks to Leos Carax's direction. Much like Holy Motors, Carax directs Annette with a maximalist paintbrush, and it is impressive with how ambitious and bold the presentation is. Although we also do have to talk about one of the major selling points of this film, the music done by Sparks. There aren't traditional musical numbers where characters sing an entire song and do a song-and-dance routine. I wasn't expecting something traditional, but I was expecting some kind of structure with the musical numbers. Instead it feels like this weird hodgepodge of rock opera and the recitative style musical like the Umbrellas of Cherbourg (okay, Cherbourg and recitative isn't the right comparison, but one that does eschew traditional ways of doing musicals like Cherbourg with the use of the recitative style), it often eschews the style of the way musical numbers are done, and can feel experimental with the compositions, arrangements, and how often songs end and begin without any sense of transition. It can feel jarring to watch, and I will admit that I did get tired of this style for the two plus hour runtime this film has. Annette can feel exhausting, and I'm not quite sure I would hail this as a masterpiece just yet, or if ever. It is different, and you do have to applaud Amazon Prime for giving a film like this a platform as big that they have, but it can also feel very polarizing too. I at least got something out of it, and I can at least say give it a shot. But I do wish I loved it a lot more than I did.