Jackson’s review published on Letterboxd:
I had so many ideas for joke reviews of this but I have kind of no choice but to do none of them and try to make a serious review instead.
But how to review Annette, a film which has no consistency throughout it. Not that that's a bad thing. I'll try to explain in the best way I can without spoiling anything.
I'll preface this by saying that explaining Annette is a futile effort, because any explanation of this movie is going to be vastly misleading because this movie is just so many things. Like, if you've seen the main trailer for this movie, you know absolutely nothing about this movie. Everything that a person would get from that trailer is either blatantly not true about it or only true for a short portion of the movie. So, let me go through various aspects of the movie and what I thought of them.
The only type of consistency in this film is the musical structure. It goes for an almost operetta style musical, where it is sung for large portions of the film, including the dialogue being intonated and scored oftentimes. I've talked about this before, but I can often have problems with this style of musical. Music in musicals and operas is supposed to indicate importance of the subject at hand. Oftentimes it represents big emotional moments for the characters and they're just so full of an emotion that they can't help but express it through song. For operas, the music does treat every single line and moment as a big emotional moment, keeping the viewer at this heightened emotional state throughout. However, when musicals get sung through, they can often lean on just adding music to normal dialogue without trying to heighten its emotion at all, leaving the viewer often wondering why this is even being sung at all and can even devalue the rest of the music through over-exposure.
For Annette, this is a bit of a problem. While there are scenes of regular dialogue and plenty of scenes where the music is used for heightened emotion, there are scenes where there is singing and there isn't an (immediately apparent) reason why it is being sung. And it doesn't help when its main cast is entirely non-singers. I could easily imagine like an actual opera singer taking these pieces and actually singing them in a way that would overwhelm, bring out what needs to be brought out. Because, really, it isn't the lyrics or score itself that's the problem (the instrumental music is all sublime), its just the usage of it, how its presented, that's the problem. Is that a fault of Leos Carax? Or is it how it was written in the script by Sparks? I don't know. Is it actually a problem or am I just an idiot? We'll get to that later
Let's talk about our three main actors: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg.
Adam Driver plays a comedian, famous for his mixture of depression and music and just generally being kind of edgy (though not in a "Netflix Special titled Triggered" kind of way). The main thought I have about his performance is that he's kind of great, but in a not immediately impressive kind of way. Like, when you watch him perform the comedy, you just kind of watch it and go "yeah, that's how modern comedians are" and you focus more on the lines being said or whatever. But, thinking about it, how hard would it be to master that cadence, that persona, that specific attitude that a lot of modern comedians have, especially for a person who is not a comedian in any shape or form. I feel this way about his entire performance really, where he blends into the movie so well, feels so of the universe, that you just don't really think about how good he is until you reflect on it. Shame he can't really sing. Also, if you're an Adam Driver fucker, you get a lot of content here. Have fun you crazy kids. I'm not one of you but go ahead, dig in.
Marion Cotillard plays an opera singer. Marion Cotillard clearly has never sung opera before and, unlike Adam Driver, doesn't seem to really understand how opera singers act when they sing opera. All of the scenes where she is singing opera and lipsyncing to an actual singer, its just so so clear that she is not the one singing and I am almost certain that this wasn't one of the films intentionally obviously fake things. It's just not believable. This doesn't affect the film or Marion Cotillard's performance that much, but it irked me a lot. Outside of that though, Cotillard is good! Definitely the weakest of the main three, but still good! She can't sing this music well, which is a shame because I thought she sung great in Nine (2009). Is it something with her direction? Or is it with the music being difficult? I don't' know. Could be both. Could be neither.
Simon Helberg gives the best performance of the movie. His character doesn't have a name, just The Accompanist. He's not even in the movie much, only like 25 minutes at most by my estimate, but he's in it much more than anyone that isn't Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, or Annette. And, again, somewhat inexplicably, he is fantastic in the movie. I'm very interested in where he goes from here, I want to see him shed his Big Bang Theory past and become a great character actor. Also, he barely sings I think? He never gets a whole song to himself and even in the fake dialogue singing he doesn't even do much singing, but maybe I'm misremembering.
The stuff I can't really talk about without spoiling but also don't want to spoil so this section is going to be very vague and pretty meaningless
This is a very weird fucking movie. But the thing is, nothing individual that happens is all that weird. If you read a beat by beat plot summary of the movie, it might be a bit odd, but nothing too weird. It gets weird with a lot of the design choices and the way the scenes...are? Some people are calling this plot operatic when that's not really true. Operas often stretch very thin plots over like three to five hours. They are often very simple, though also very over the top. Annette is complicated. There's enough plot here for at least three different movies, maybe more, but the film just moves so fast. The tone is also all over the place. It may first seem like a comedy, and it often is, but it delves into drama and mystery and fantasy and romance and thriller and other shit too. It's just all over the place and, like I said, inconsistent.
Also, Annette, as in the titular character. I want to say so much but it's all spoilers because there is absolutely nothing publicly shared about her.
Why I still love it
So, Annette, with all its inconsistencies, its little irks, its too fast pacing that also takes an eternity to get through, its artificiality, a number of other things that I imagine a lot of people are going to hate about it but I won't spoil, why don't I hate them?
It just kinda works for me. Part of it is me thinking I understand a lot of this movie, which might not even be true but let's pretend for the moment, and genuinely loving the ideas it is putting forth. Part of it is me thinking that there is potential to understand it, like with the weird moments of mundane singing, and thinking that, upon repeat viewings, I will love it more. Part of it is me accepting the confusion and just going along for the ride, letting the film take me where it wants to go without question.
Annette is a film where, no matter if you think its the worst film you've ever seen or the greatest cinematic achievement ever, I would understand it. There is a lot of valid ways to read and react to this movie and I understand all of them. Me personally, I just think this movie is really interesting and fun while also being really beautiful and emotional too. I can't wait to watch this again, whenever that may be. Hopefully soon.
I watched this with Luke and one of my flaws when watching movies with people is that I always like to make quips about the movie, trying to make them laugh. I can't help it. If I think of something funny, I must say it or I will die. Here's some out of context jokes I made:
"This is just like the beginning of Cats, ESPECIALLY musically"
"I'm the joker baby"
"Bo J. Simpson"
*laughing for a solid minute, so hard that absolutely no sound is coming out, at "it's tickle time"* (It gets brought up later, and i wanted to laugh again, but i held it in)