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Annette (2021) – Review: A Wildly Original Musical That is Easily One of the Best Films of 2021

August 30, 2021

Quick Thoughts – Grade – A –  Annette is a wildly creative musical that features a career best performance from Adam Driver. 

When it was first announced that Leos Carax (watch Holy Motors now) would be directing a musical co-written by Ron Mael and Russell Mael of Sparks (watch The Sparks Brothers now), you couldn’t help but be excited about the final product. The cast has changed since Adam Driver and Rooney Mara signed on in 2016, but the addition of Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg (who got his French citizenship so he could be in the film) have given it a welcome pedigree of dedicated performers. You won’t see a more thoroughly realized vision in 2021, as Annette plays exactly like a Carax and Sparks project should play, as it’s funny, dark, violent, lyrical, creative, bleak, and uncompromising. 

The film focuses on the relationship between famed opera singer Ann Defrasnoux (Cotillard), and comedian Henry McHenry (Adam Driver). The two love each other a lot, but their careers take wildly different turns as the apple-loving Ann becomes a worldwide phenom, while Henry’s career falters as his shock-jock-esque stylings find him tanking shows, and retreating into alcoholism and violence. The two also have a daughter named Annette (who is a marionette puppet – you get used to it), who ends up getting exploited when Henry learns she has a beautiful singing voice. To say more, would do the film a disservice, as it’s full of surprises that you shouldn’t know about. What should you know? There are actually nine puppets used throughout the film, the actors sang all of their songs live on set, and the cinematography by Caroline Champetier (Holy Motors) is wildly ambitious, as it allows for long takes that capture full musical performances. 

It will be interesting to see how people who’ve never seen Holy Motors, or know nothing about Sparks, react to Annette. There will be zero primer for the experience, and it would be cool to see it in a packed theater of people not knowing what they are in for. It’s a wildly original 140-minute film that loads up on repetitive song numbers, dark themes and lots of sex. If you know about Carax and Sparks, the movie makes a lot of sense, and isn’t in any way a surprise, as they’ve always pushed boundaries and appreciated the weird in life. As mentioned before, Annette is a 140-minute film that features a marionette puppet (that the actors sometimes had to manipulate) as a core character. It’s almost as if Carax and Sparks want to exhaust and test the audience, and if you start feeling like it’s too weird, just know that the creators want to challenge you, and have worked tirelessly to bring something unique into your life. 

Final ThoughtsAnnette is easily one of my favorite 2021 films, and it’s cool seeing a movie that avoids VFX, embraces music, and has no interest in being like anything else.

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