Adam Driver is sensational in this unorthodox if tonally-uneven musical about the perils of celebrity culture that oscillates between feeling inspired and overdrawn.
Cast: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg
Plot: A seemingly perfect couple—a provocative stand-up comedian and internationally renowned opera singer—live glamorous lives in contemporary Los Angeles. However, when they welcome their daughter Annette into the world, her mysterious gifts will change their lives forever.
Awards: Won Best Director & Cannes Soundtrack Award; Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes); Nom. for Best Actress – Musical/Comedy (Golden Globes)
International Sales: Kinology
Subject Matter: Moderate – Celebrity Culture, Family in Crisis
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
I haven’t seen a better Adam Driver performance than his work here, which is sensational, as he plays opposite Marion Cotillard in this new film by Leos Carax, whose last feature was Holy Motors (2012) nearly a decade ago.
Driver is Henry, a popular stand-up comedian whose vulgarness and dark sentiment are contrasted with Cotillard’s Anne, a renowned opera singer whose elegance and performative artistry earn her great respect.
Opposites attract as they fall in love, get married and have a kid, who will be a key figure in the ensuing narrative (well, after all, the film is named after her, a delicate if somewhat creepy doll-like baby brought alive by stunning puppetry). Under the sly hands of Carax, you won’t expect everything to fall into place.
“What she sees in me… is a little more puzzling.”
Fashioned as an unorthodox musical with a strong first third, Annette has one or two decent musical numbers, but overall, I didn’t find any of the music or songs particularly memorable. Tonally, Annette is uneven, though more charitable viewers on its wavelength might find that exciting.
As it oscillates between an overdrawn affair with problems in pacing and an inspired non-conformist piece of pop art, Carax’s film often explicitly reminds us (most notably in a satirical way through pseudo-news bulletin alerts) that it is about the perils of celebrity culture, from toxic masculinity to the pressures of performing (child exploitation anyone?) and to the nature of stardom.
Driver should be in contention for his third Oscar acting nomination if the buzz from Cannes doesn’t die down in the coming months. But whether Annette will resonate with the wider public and garner enough support for an awards run is very much still up in the air.