Annette ★★★★½

After two weeks spent in a cinema-starved wasteland, I returned to civilization hungry for something big and bold. I had become fixated on Annette because it would be my first Leos Carax, and I have been filled with self-recrimination ever since I missed Holy Motors nearly a decade ago.

Annette is billed as a musical, but it's really an opera. It is nearly sung-through, and its plot, staging, and runtime struck me as more typical of Rigoletto than Singin' in the Rain. The plot concerns a sleazy stand-up comic who marries an opera singer. Together they have a daughter, Annette, played in most scenes by a series of surprisingly evocative puppets. Annette, however, has a special gift. Despite being a simulacrum who, like the idols of old, has eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, and lips that cannot speak, this deaf, dumb, and blind doll sure sings a mean soprano.'s Tommy. The plot is Tommy. But Sparks is not The Who, and Leos Carax is not Ken Russell. The plot might be familiar, but the movie is very much its own thing, with a distinct tone that is nothing like the famous rock opera.

The only reproach I have is the same one I had against In the Heights: Sometimes the music stops, and people talk. The problem here is very acute. It's Adam Driver's stand-up routine. It sucks. And it practically opens the film and goes on for so long that I was afraid the whole film would stay there. It gets some necessary exposition out of the way, but then it comes back (for a much shorter duration, at least) to pave the way for a major plot point. I don't know how else to resolve this problem other than give Driver's character a different profession.

Still, apart from the rough start, this is the best time I've had in theatres since they reopened. It might be more than half over already, but I got a feeling '21 is gonna be a good year.

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