Annette

Annette ★★★★

Nothing about Annette strikes me as particularly earnest or genuine. The opening sequence overtly draws attention to the artifice of the whole affair, and then the rest of the movie maintains a hyper-stylized aesthetic that never asks you to suspend disbelief for a single moment. The lyrics to the ever-present songs are laughably repetitive and simple, the special effects in certain larger-scaled sequences are intentionally and comically wonky (I particularly adore the seafaring scene on the poster, which appears to simultaneously utilize wild CGI and in-camera rear projection onto the set), and Baby Annette…well, if you know, you know. And it juxtaposes its absurd style with lofty ideas about domestic violence, exploitation, artistic ethics, and celebrity culture.

I don’t think that this particular execution of the cinematic rock opera medium actually has much to say about any of the themes that it flirts with, nor does it offer a story with much emotional resonance. But that disconnect feels completely by design, because it seems that the thesis of this movie is that entertainment — be it the high art of opera, the lowbrow performance of standup comedy, or even the cinematic medium that falls somewhere in between — is often largely ill-equipped to meaningfully grapple with real-world issues and tragedies. That’s not a thesis that I come close to agreeing with, but Leos Carax and his team state it with such boldness and style that it’s easy to go along for the ride anyway.

And even if Annette is right about the frequent futility of idealistic entertainment, it still demonstrates the value of distinct artistic voices creating popular entertainment, because every main performance in this movie is absolutely transfixing, and the Sparks-Carax combo makes almost every scene incredibly funny to watch, whether you care about what’s happening or not. It’s like a meme in movie form, with three of the most committed, unpredictable performances I’ve seen in any film this year. If you aren’t on its wavelength within the first twenty minutes, then this movie will be hell to sit through, but if you can get behind its surreal humor and wild creative choices, you’re in for a treat.

Wesley liked these reviews

All