Annette ★★★½

In anticipation of Annette’s release, I tried watching one of director Leos Carax’s previous films: Holy Motors. I only got about a half hour in before turning it off. Both because I wasn’t as into it as I thought I would be, and that I had an immense urge to play video games that night. Regardless, I wasn’t too into that film. It left me feeling concerned for when I would finally see Annette. Now that I’ve finally done so, I have come to the conclusion that Annette is a pretty good film. It’s not something I’m over the moon about, but it is at least a film of good quality. 

One of the bigger aspects about Annette that I’ve been eagerly anticipating is, of course, the music (given that it is a musical and all). By the time it ended, I found myself feeling incredibly mixed towards the songs made for it. In terms of the score and orchestral components, it is superbly composed and put together. I highly enjoyed the pure music in this film. Lyrically, however, I did not find myself enjoying it all too much. To put it simply, almost all of the lyrics come off as so fucking literal (as I see it). For just about the entire tracklist, these characters are singing about how they literally feel and what they’re supposed to be saying and doing to one another in pretty much the same literal manner. When it comes to the vocal performances, they are also very well-done. Especially from Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. If you thought Driver was phenomenal in that one scene in Marriage Story, there’s a lot to enjoy here with his musical performance. It’s just that most of the lyrics blow. Again, this is all how I feel about it. I’m certain that there will be a lot of people that will greatly enjoy the lyrics, along with the other components of the music here. But as for me, the lyrics just aren’t that good. It’s such a weird thing to say about the music in a musical; that the lyrics aren’t very good, but the pure score and vocal performances are incredible.

I started listening to a few of the Spark’s albums in the lead-up to Annette’s release. Primarily their earlier albums. I liked what I heard from those, so I did not expect to feel this way about the music in the film, which was made by them. I think the only tracks I genuinely enjoyed out of them all are the first and final ones. 

Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard are both terrific in the lead roles. Aside from their musical performances, each one excels in their own respective areas within their distinct roles. Driver, for instance, has a lot of energy in his performance. It’s most apparent in a couple of scenes when he’s performing stand-up (which reminded me a lot of Bo Burnham). Cotillard, on the other hand, gives a lot of warmth and passion throughout a lot of her scenes. There’s this one scene that Simon Helberg is in, where I felt he gives it his all. For the rest of the film outside of this scene, he is generally good.   

In another simple statement, Annette possesses some stellar visuals. With tons of colour, glamour, and style too, there is some memorability to at least be earned here from the way it looks. Cinematography is equally the same in such visual splendour. It’s also smooth and clear in its movement, creating some particularly lovely shots. All those roadway shots are one highlight of mine in regards to cinematography and visuals. There’s some great editing on display throughout. It even goes as far as to create a sort of dream-like feeling in certain moments. 

While I was watching, I started wondering if this film here is satire. About fame, stardom, and how it impacts a family, along with what happens with the titular child in the third act. Maybe that’s why the lyrics are so literal. Are they satirizing musicals, with those same themes in mind, alongside Hollywood stardom? I’m not too sure. It’s just something that came to mind.  

With Annette, Leos Carax and the Sparks Brothers have a vision that is clear and distinct here, there’s no doubt about that. I just can’t help but realize after seeing this and some of Holy Motors that Carax’s work may not exactly be of my taste. I still liked Annette. It may not be a film that wowed me, or had me completely at its mercy in terms of falling deeply into it, but there’s still quite a bit to take from it and enjoy. Despite my mixed feelings in the musical department especially, I liked Annette a pretty good amount.

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