Annette ★★

Haven’t been this disappointed since The Dead Don’t Die, which incidentally also starred Adam Driver… coincidence??? Probably.

I like musicals as much as the next guy, assuming the next guy doesn’t particularly care for musicals. I don’t ‘dislike’ them per say, but I wouldn’t call them a selling point. If the music is good, or the story on its own is interesting enough, then sure, I can get behind it. Annette doesn’t quite have either. Consistency is key, and in this regard Annette was all over the place. There were some very high highs, and just as many very low lows, but in a genre such as this, the middle of the road is as good as the ditch in my books.

It was certainly unlike anything I’ve ever seen, so I’ve got to give credit for that. However, as Bo Burnham, the man Henry McHenry is trying so hard to imitate in his routine (which they could have at least tried to make funny), has said, “Original doesn’t mean good”.

Way too long for the ideas being expressed. Could have easily been condensed into a crisp 90 minutes if they didn’t have to repeat every line of singing 8 times. We love each other so much. We love each other so much. We love each other so much. We love each other so much. We love each other so much. We fucking get it. I get that they want to highlight the point, but could they not have written one or two more lyrics to express the same meaning?

We crucify poorly written dramas for on-the-nose dialogue and painfully unsubtle exposition, but when we add a musical track and make them sing the exposition it’s magically passable? I don’t get it. The musical format, like the documentary format, gives room to tell incredibly complex stories through narrative deconstruction and non-traditional storytelling. Annette doesn’t really do anything special to utilize the format other than singing nearly every line overtop of some (mostly) forgettable musical arrangements. It feels more like a televised act of musical theatre than a film for most of the runtime, which might be a plus for some people, but I don’t particularly care for musical theatre so it didn’t really do anything for me.

Very simple story, told in a very stylized way, but with no added complexity or nuance thanks to the musical aspect of the film. Instead they use the songs to just drill every obvious plot point into your fucking head with as little subtext as possible. At times it feels like a compilation of interconnected music videos rather than a single entity united by music. The musical aspect simply doesn’t lend nearly as much to the narrative as it needs to to justify the choice. Take away the ‘Rock Opera’ gimmick and the story is just kinda boring with underdeveloped and unlikable caricatures, not adding anything particularly new or insightful to the discussion of the themes it so brazenly wittles into its forehead.

I could go into depth examining Annette’s themes and metaphors about stardom, love, fatherhood, and child exploitation they beat you over the head with, and the taut meta packaging it all comes wrapped up in, but at the risk of being told I “didn’t get it”, I don’t think I’ll bother because it’s not something I’m terribly interested in thinking too deeply about.

Sadly, my favorite part was the opening 35 seconds when everyone was plugging in their instruments, and my favorite song was the opening number announcing the start of the film. Everything after that failed to compare, save for the brilliant conducting scene with Simon Helberg, and a few choice moments with the baby. The wrestling scene at the end was great too though, although brief. Huge props to Simon Helberg for actually getting slammed into the pool like he did. Small things like that I can really appreciate because it gives a certain authenticity when you can tell it’s not a stunt double.

I had no expectations for Annette other than the expectation that it would wow me, but for the second time in two weeks I was betrayed by a great trailer and left underwhelmed and unfulfilled. For me my interest began to wane after the yacht sequence. Everything up to that point felt like it was building to something grand, but after that moment, the story took a different turn and the walls began to crumble. By the time the credits rolled the castle was in ruin before it was even built.

I can see myself re-watching this in the future after I’ve gotten a bit more of a taste for Carax’s work, and maybe I'll appreciate it a bit more after watching the Sparks brothers documentary, but I can’t promise I’ll stick through the entire thing on a second go-round.

That being said I still stan my boy Adam Driver and he turned up big time for this one, so I recommend seeing it just for him if nothing else. Oh, and the baby of course.

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