Annette is a dark, not-so-bright soap-opera movie for musical moviegoers!
Hate to say this, but if you have kids, please do not show this film to your kids if you’re a parent and a music buff altogether as this film contains much darker images and strong language despite being a musical film or an opera film. Annette serves a English directorial debut for French director Leos Carax. Written by the Sparks duo of Ron and Ruseell Mael, this film features the duet of actors Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard.
The story of Annette focuses on the relationship between a stand-up comedian named Henry McHenry and his wife Ann Defrasnoux, an famous opera singer. As Ann gives birth to her newborn daughter, she and Henry soon realize how their lives are changing when their first child has been gifted with a natural singing talent, thereby becoming the famous singing celebrity called Baby Annette.
Star Wars actor Adam Driver stands up onstage as Henry McHenry, a drug-addictive and a stand-up comedian whose life turns upside down when he makes sexual advances on his wife due to his drug abuse, while French actress and musician Marion Cotillard (La Vie en Rose) shines the light as Henry’s wife and the famous opera singer Ann Defrasnoux. Driver’s performance onstage as a comedian is beyond powerful, but he certainly pulls up a stunt in a weird position and the fact that the film didn’t bring much of his redeeming qualities, which is very unemotional to see. Cotillard, on the other hand, is essentially just a figurehead for kindness, passion, and purity who doesn't get much place and space to act. Though she, as both an actress and a singer, knows her music gig and background in the palm of her hand. The director of the film is Leos Carax. With his direction, the film is entirely an opera movie and is way too long but the story is basic and utterly predictable. Carax really had the choreography and musical numbers crew working on so many levels as if this movie is a lot more than just any average musical film. With that being done in a tight squeeze, they seem like they’re on fire on such good choreography, the set designs, and photography, which all of them are fabulous and amazing to see.
While parts of Carax’s direction and chemistry between Driver and Cotillard are perfectly well-balanced, nothing could hardly save the film, however. The crew made the film being so tightly paced and filled with intensity and musical numbers, which is actually really boring. All the songs follow the same lazy pattern as one only sees a lovely couple, but truthfully sees random people singing one sentence over and over again. And that dark ending and the Annette character at the very end seem very messy, unforgiving, and not helping as the Carax and the Sparks duo focused on adding newer, but heavily not-colored music pieces to the puzzle. This goes to show from the director that an apology and forgiveness are not enough. Forgiveness is, but not always, will be forgiven. So don’t expect anyone or God to forgive you when you go out there, doing bad things. All of the cast and crew would say that forgiveness is a very hard deed.
The film has a lot of emotional manipulation throughout the film and is almost a romanticization of domestic violence. Drug abuse, emotional abuse, sexual harassment, and domestic violence are the main themes of the movie. Like Promising Young Woman, Annette is clearly the major influence from the Weinstein effect when Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual harassment towards women. All the stress, hard battles of marriages, and anxiety-inducing, especially for victims of such abuses, are the essences of what make romantic relationships far too worst as the main character gets away with a lot. If that’s the big case, this shows a prime example of another bad (and unhealthy) case of male gaze.
Simon Helberg (The Big Bang Theory) and Devyn McDowell are also featured in the film. Helberg portrays The Conductor, who is also close friend to Ann Defrasnoux and a victim of Henry’s drug abuse, while Devyn McDowell plays her role as Henry and Ann’s daughter Annette whose singing talent gains popularity in the world as Baby Annette.
I really hate to break it to you, but Annette wasn’t a good movie, coming at 140 minutes for the film’s entirety. This looks very hard to watch and really nerve-wracking to see the habits of their relationship. I may love music but I felt like the beauty and artistry of this so-called “opera” film in the first half seemed too easy to enjoy but after that, they have increasingly died down, reducing the art of passion and music. But Driver and Cotillard are top-notch and even Helberg fitted in quite well. From what I witnessed, Driver could stand a chance of receiving his Oscar nomination (or perhaps a Golden Globe nom) for his role. While the film is tough to choose, the acting is outstanding, but the music songs are repetitive throughout the course. I don’t know what to say but please consider selecting a different movie if you can as choosing this movie makes you want to leave the theater during the movie or after the movie in dissatisfaction.
(Review by Henry Pham)