Annette ★★

César Awards Nominations 2022

Pain. Absolute pain.

There is a decent story in Leos Carax's Annette, but it is gated behind some of the worst songs I have ever heard in a musical, with even worse singing. It's like Ben Stein played every male character and just repeated "Bueller, Bueller" in every song... but then at least that would be kind of funny.

Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), a provocative comedian, dead ringer for Howard Stern, has a whirlwind romance with famed opera singer Anne (Marion Cotillard). Their scandalous romance is covered heavily by the tabloids, acting as expository interstitials. Henry and Anne, madly in love, are at the height of their careers. This is all well and good and I actually got kind of hyped by the beginning song, except for Simon Helberg, who plays The Accompanist. I'm sorry, but I can't see past his Big Bang Theory character.

Henry and Anne have a baby, Annette. Annette is played by a puppet. The puppet is cool, but also disturbing. This is fine, except the way they both interact with this puppet is very off-putting and "uncanny valley" for me. Is that the point? Is Annette supposed to be some unreal metaphor to them? Eventually Henry becomes distant from Anne, and after a highly controversial comedy act, the family decide to go on a boating trip in a giant storm. This is where the story really starts to take off.

Now if I can get back to the singing. First of all, I could barely understand a thing Marion Cotillard sang, probably because it was mostly in soprano. Aside from the first song, So May We Start, every other musical number is uninspired, repetitive, boring, and painfully long. We Love Each Other So Much, yes we know, that was 90% of the lyrics. Other songs, I'm an Accompanist, Six Women Come Forward, Let's Waltz in the Storm are seemingly just for character and plot progression, but even those are so monotone and dull and overstayed. The non-star characters sing fine for the most part but their acting and drama club smiling is so painfully over-the-top (yes I know it's a musical) that I was in a perpetual state of wincing through these bigger numbers.

Eventually Annette, now a toddler, still a puppet, is pushed into a singing career by her father. The movie becomes even more surreal, but it seems like it still tries to anchor itself so much in this realism that it becomes absurd. At this point I stopped taking it as seriously, but this was a bad idea because we hit this super serious climax that barely made sense.

Now that I have rambled on sufficiently, I will close by saying this: although I couldn't stand the music and much of the acting here, it does have an intriguing story. The movie is beautifully shot and has a very dreamy, soft look to it. Direction and cinematography are mostly fine. The pacing is agonizingly slow, and the movie is 140 minutes long. It's unfortunate that all this good stuff is trapped within so many layers of poop.

I'm going to put on High School Musical for a palette cleanser.


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