Ryan Liddiard’s review published on Letterboxd:
I’ll have whatever contact cement Leos Carax is sniffing!
Annette is batshit bonkers. I liken it to an operatic orgy of the strange and bizarre. It’s sadistically funny while also being incredibly melancholic. To be honest: I think I love it. And I say “think” because another viewing is probably going to be necessary with this one. But on first look, there’s lots that made me swell.
Adam Driver is downright crazy. Here is a man who is fully committed to the vision of his director! He essentially sings non-stop for two hours and twenty minutes, which in itself is an achievement. But what I found most remarkable about his performance was his ability to cohabit both an experimental and traditional approach at the same time—he goes headlong into the weird, but is always keeping one hand on the steering wheel, and the end result is perplexing in all the best ways. Marion Cotillard and Simon Helberg provide some strong duets, but their performances (based on screen time alone) only really amount to accompaniment or backing vocals to Driver’s lead.
The film is well shot, and there are wild style choices throughout that keep it fresh and interesting. The music, for the most part, is also fantastic, and I’ve subsequently gone down a rabbit hole of Sparks Brothers catalog-scouring and information-gathering. Perhaps I’ll check out Edgar Wright’s recent documentary.
On music, however, there were definitely times when it felt tiresome—times when it really felt like the never ending soundtrack to Henry McHenry’s life. Almost every scene had a song, or was narrated with song, or was punctuated with song. I came up with my own theory as to why this was, but if that’s not your brand of vodka, I would steer clear.
I also think the film is tough to get a grasp on thematically because it moves along at such a frenzied pace. The plot is wafer thin, and any chance to soak in imagery or symbolism or metaphors is interrupted by another song and dance, and thus you never really bind any of it together until the end—an ending, might I add, which people seemed to be divided on, but I really liked.
And let me just spend one minute on this fucking puppet, Baby Annette, or the Seed of Chucky-looking “Doll-Spawn” as I’ve called it. It’s creepy—there’s no other way to put it. It makes Annabelle look like Barbie. But I think so far as it’s use as a foil and device in the film, it is incredibly smart and thought-provoking.
Leos Carax has crafted a truly unique film. In keeping with puppets, and the stage, and the theatre, I couldn’t help but feel as though he was the puppeteer, up in the rafters, pulling the strings and putting on a show for us all. And though he may have mystified us, there’s certainly no denying that he entertained us, too.