Annette ★★★½

"We ask for your patience. Baby Annette is a baby after all."

I dunno. I think the baby looked more realistic than the one in American Sniper.

Leos Carax does something ambitious and different for every one of his half-dozen features, and sure enough there are a myriad of departures here in his latest, Annette. It's got bankable Hollywood stars. It's in English. Oh, and it's a freaking musical. Sure! Fortunately I was able to find a theatre -- a little further away than I wanted to drive so this made it a long night for me, not quite as long as that night I drove to see Corpus Christi and Matthew B. was there but I was too shy to say hello -- to see this visually pleasing and bonkers rock opera, probably the way it was meant to be seen.

And it's good! It is nowhere near as good as at least four of his other films, but I still had a joyous time here.

It's a roller-coaster relationship for edgy stand-up comedian Henry McHenry (Adam Driver) and internationally renowned soprano Ann Desfranoux (Marion Cotillard), but they get married and start a family just the same, with their beautiful daughter Annette joining them. (She is a marionette, apparently.) But Ann's career is bigger than Henry's, so he finds himself staying home with their child more often than not, due to her touring with her accompanist (Simon Helberg). As Ann's career continues to shine all over the world -- despite horrid nightmares she has about her husband and his past -- Henry's spirals in chaos and disarray, resenting her success. The two go on a private cruise to hope for good times again, but tragedy strikes. When Henry returns home, he finds that Annette can now sing in the voice of her mother. This haunting curse, Henry soon realizes, might be his only hope for life.

With score, lyrics, and an original story by the Maels Brothers (Sparks, whose music and shtick I don't really care for) and co-written by Carax as well, Annette is bound to be weird with that kind of combination. The brothers also appear in this movie a few times and their faces are just as punchable as they were in that overrated Edgar Wright documentary.

And I didn't care much for the music here either. It's bizarre and repetitive. If have been fine if this wasn't a musical at all, except maybe for the self-aware possibly one-shot opening. Driver sounds a little like Bowie when he sings (really!), so I can see why Carax was drawn to him.

But the images and story are just wonderful. Carax dives right into this wild tale of romance, revenge, and miracles. It frequently contains some of the most beautiful shots of any movie this year, most especially the breathtaking ones on the shore of the sea, as father and daughter share the moonlight. It was one of those moments where the whole theatre seemed transfixed. Though the puppet thing is creepy, so much of the production design of this audacious movie is simply amazing.

It's overlong, and I really felt its runtime after the first act was so great and the rest did not ever reach anywhere near that. The finale is particularly silly and left me on a sour note. Consider this as low of a 3.5 as I can give.

Friend who wrote a better review than me: David Wheeler.

Added to Leos Carax ranked.
Added to The Narrative Films of 2021, ranked.

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