Jakob Mathews’s review published on Letterboxd:
Sparks has been having a fabulous start to the decade it would seem. Like many, I wasn’t well versed in Sparks until I saw Edgar Wright’s very charming and fun documentary, The Sparks Brothers. Ever since then, I’ve been listening to their HUGE discography and have been following this film ever since, because of their major involvement with the story and music.
Annette is, without a doubt, one of the most wild, ambitious, unique, and mad musicals to come to the big screen in a very long time. This film throws everything it can at you and doesn’t seem to wait up for you to digest everything. The structure isn’t too complicated, it’s just what’s executed that’s a lot to digest. So much so, that this film WILL NOT vibe with everyone (see the Letterboxd average). The story is out there, but so is the music, the editing, the shot composition, etc.
This film looks wonderful and has a very specific and original appearance to it. It looks modern, but feels ethereal. The music by Sparks is audibly arresting and soothing. The music is constant and it’s often creative and far from traditional. Most of the film, specifically the second half, is mostly talk-singy, so if that’s not your thing, STEER CLEAR. Adam Driver…is absolutely stunning in this film, probably the absolute best work I’ve seen from him. His hugely dedicated and eccentric performances makes so much of this film work and feel alive. Marion Cotillard and Simon Helberg, while not nearly as present, are also lovely and incorporate an excellent and emotional core to the film.
While I would say the first half is near perfect for me, the second half is where most of my issues come to play. After the end of the first half (side note: I love how this film feels as if it’s split into two acts, contemporary musical theatre style; it’s very clear where an intermission lies and it’s quite satisfying), the film’s tone becomes a tad more jumbled and hard to follow while the pacing becomes less consistent. I still loved a lot of what was present, including a lovely and theatrical final 20 minutes, but it’s clearly not as strong as the first hour plus.
Annette absolutely won’t be for everyone and it’s easily a film where if someone were to hate it, I wouldn’t even bat an eye, but I found so much of this to be theatrically rich, strange, and gorgeous. It’s themes on art and the pretentiousness and corruption of an artist rung very true to me and impacted me quite a bit. I really loved this and as a musical theatre fan, I couldn’t be more happy with how passionately and aggressively original this film was.