Annette ★★★½

HAHA! Leos Carax, you mad, mad fucker. You got us to watch your piss-take on musicals. The entertainment value here is just insanely high. This is by far the 2021 movie I laughed at the most. The final duet with real girl Annette is utterly glorious.

It is never ever boring, it’s very often utterly batshit insane, and several times it’s extremely cringy. Sometimes it feels like the greatest Adult Swim vid we will ever see, other times it’s almost like a Nobuhiko Obayashi film in its dreamlike pop-aesthetic. It’s like the “Speed Racer” of musicals, in that a lot of people who think a movie has to be a certain way will bitch and moan about it while the rest of us are just delighted it exists. It’s like if a high school theater teacher who was going through a divorce was given an unlimited budget, a crackerjack creative team, and two of the most electric actors in the world to mount a broadway play. It’s undeniably some kind of mammoth achievement, but what kind, I’m not sure I can entirely unpack.

Having said all of that, it’s definitely the least emotional or intellectual experience I’ve had watching a Carax film. We’re miles and miles away from “The Lovers on the Bridge” or “Mauvais Sang” here. I certainly don’t want him to be static or make the same films he did when he was younger, but there was only one thing I really felt this whole runtime, and that was, “LOL WUT?!”

Random thoughts:

- It’s entirely fair that Adam Driver can’t sing for shit, because the man can’t have everything.

- The conductor sequence with the amazing Simon Helberg as ‘The Accompanist’ is absolutely one for the Great Movie Theater In the Sky. Amazing sequence. Fucking hilarious, and he's so committed to the bit.

- This movie loves actual musicians and music so much more than ‘La La Land’. There are a lot of on-screen musicians performing throughout this and it's a blast.

- I’m not in love with the lyrics (though I found the compositions quite lush and lovely). I don’t think the lyrics are very smart or interesting, nor do they enhance the film. I see that this is really ‘The Sparks’ moment, with two 2021 films featuring their involvement being dropped by big name directors. But bros, yo, why are so, so many of these lyrics just iterating in song exactly what I’m watching on screen? It’s easy to tell a story if you just have your characters singing shit like, “I’m walking through the door”, “I’m falling in love”, “my career is in the shitter”, “I’m marooned on this island”. It seems like a missed opportunity to create even more subtext by having the image and the lyrics wrestle through juxtaposition to create synergistic, unspoken meaning. Just saying.

- Never having seen any Bo Burnham standup in my life, I imagine Henry McHenry’s performance pieces in this are what watching ‘Inside’ must be like. However, calling an Adam Driver one man show ‘The Ape of God’ sounds about right.

- Beautiful production design throughout. A joy to look at.

- When I first saw puppet Annette I thought, “Ohhh... it’s the origin story of the evil leprechaun character from ‘Holy Motors’ and ‘Tokyo’!”. I was wrong.

- In general, especially in the first act of the film, Carax and DP Caroline Champetier film Los Angeles incredibly well, with the entire “Let’s start” opening sequence being done right around the corner from where I lived at the time of filming in Santa Monica, next to the Nuart. It blows my mind that Carax was just down the street from me and I didn't even know it.

Alright, I’ll stop, my new book drops today and I’ve got a lot of promotion to do.

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