This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Zach Gallegos’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Beauty and the Bastard
I’m not a fan of musicals, and that can’t be helped. I love music and movies passionately, but I don’t like when the two worlds are joined together. However, I have to appreciate this movie for what it does from a technical and thematic perspective. Over-the-top performances drive this film, with both Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard at their peaks. Marion has a heavenly voice built for opera, and can we talk about Driver's singing chops? We’ve all seen Driver’s rendition of Being Alive in Marriage Story, but I’m utterly impressed by how well of a singer he is. And not only signing ability but also being able to put on a performance and convey such emotion through his song. Amazing.
I found most of the plot mildly interesting. The two opposite lives, the good girl who saves her audience and the bad boy who kills his. It’s an alright premise, and the movie still manages to take many unexpected turns. Then we get the introduction of Annette, the doll-like child of Driver and Cotillard’s characters. Devyn McDowell plays Annette, and once again, I was utterly impressed by how well she acted and sang. I'm not too fond of dolls, a dislike that has stemmed from my childhood, but the character grew on me a lot by the end of the movie, with her toting her stuffed monkey around wherever she goes.
Talking about the end scene, the finale to Annette is an emotional and heartbreaking last performance between Driver and McDowell. Up to this point, Annette had been viewed as a puppet by the audience, and the symbolism couldn’t have been more obvious. Both parents had not seen Annette as a living child but an object, a puppet that they can control for their benefit. For Cotillard, Annette acted as a vessel of revenge against her husband for being responsible for her death. For Driver, Annette had been an opportunity for a better future, a voice to exploit for fame and success. With Driver finally in prison for his crimes, Annette is no longer a puppet but a living girl. The final song is heartbreaking, and the final scene alone would warrant a 5-star rating for the film if not for the lackluster middle act and questionable CGI throughout the film.
As I said, I’ve never enjoyed musicals, but Annette may be an exception. While I still struggled to sit through the many musical numbers this film had, there was a lot to appreciate, from the acting to the sparks of writing genius.