Annette is one of those movies that will leave you thinking — and the longer you think about it, the more you will like it.
Annette is a dark and twisted rock opera of a film that while quite long, does have a lot to offer. It starts right off with singing and a bizarre-ness about it that does take a little bit of getting used to. However, once viewers get to about the halfway mark they will settle in to this off beaten world, and just soak it all in.
The film kicks right off with a song, which this rock opera is of course filled with. It then goes right into a very off-putting but interesting performance by Adam Driver’s character, Henry, who is a stand-up comedian that likes to push the envelope. This is where the audience learns a lot about the character though, including that he is madly in love with Ann, an opera singer, played by Marion Cotillard.
What Works With Annette
Even with its bizarre tones, this movie is completely captivating and intriguing from the start. It is one of those movies that you just cannot look away from, no matter how awkward you feel. Yes, there is an explicit scene between Henry and Ann and it does feel like it goes on just a BIT too long — which must have been on purpose to make the audience squirm a little in their seats.
One of the best things about this movie is the singing. The three main actors – Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg, who plays The Accompanist, can all actually sing. The songs are quite good and tie everything together along the way. They also help the keep the pace up, and keep things interesting, as the movie continues.
The standout performance is Adam Driver. Not to say the others are not good, because they are, but he takes this to a whole new level. He is extremely believable and seems to fully embrace the persona of Henry. Similar to his performance in Marriage Story, it is clear that he is one of the best actors of our time, and is destined to do even more fantastic things.
The plot of the movie does take a while to get to where it is going, but there is one scene in particular where the tables turn and it becomes clear what this movie is all about. The moments leading up to the boat scene, and the boat scene itself is where the true theme of Annette starts to poke through. From there on out, it is fantastic, even though it is still somewhat off the wall.
The entire third act is thrilling, suspenseful, and captivating, although a bit predicable. Even if you know the majority of what is going to happen, or think you do, you are sure to be surprised by a twist and turn or two. When it all comes together in the end, it comes together beautifully. In fact, the final scene itself has the potential to bring most people to tears.
What Doesn’t Work With Annette
While there is lot to like about Annette, there is also a lot that will make you unsure how you feel. In all honesty, it took me a full day after watching this movie to come to the conclusion that I liked it. It is very much one of those movies that you need to sleep on to fully appreciate.
This is largely in part due to the bizarre nature of it all. The things we are forced to watch occur through song, which just feels off, and the fact that it does feel disjointed at times. The transitions from scene to scene do not always work, and it is long. Really long. Like really, really long. Clocking in at 2 hours and 20 minutes feels like a lot for something as unique as this.
Annette herself is extremely creepy and while eventually I started to accept that her appearance was not going to change, it took me a long time to not get shivers down my spine whenever she was on camera. It does become clear that this is done for a very good reason, which is worth it in the end, however.
Ultimately I was left with the feeling that Annette is about addiction, anger issues, and living with guilt. Adam Driver delivers another untouchable performance and it is only because of his commitment to the role that this movie works at all. Marion Cotillard is also great, but is outshined by Driver. Same goes for Simon Helberg.
The world that Annette creates is gorgeous, dark, and captivating. One of those things that you cannot turn away from, even when you want to. The overall story is powerful, especially when it all comes together in the third act. It isn’t perfect, but it is intriguing, and something that is sure to stand the test of time.
Do yourself a favor and let this one sit with you a few days after your viewing before passing judgement, because you are sure to appreciate it at the very least, once you soak it all in.
Los Angeles, today. Henry (Adam Driver) is a stand-up comedian with a fierce sense of humor who falls in love with Ann (Marion Cotillard), a world-renowned opera singer. Under the spotlight, they form a passionate and glamorous couple. With the birth of their first child, Annette, a mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny, their lives are turned upside down. A film by visionary director Leos Carax (Holy Motors), with story & music by Ron & Russell Mael of Sparks, this original musical is a journey of love, passion & fame.
Directed by: Leos Carax
Written by: Ron Mael and Russell Mael
Produced by: Charles Gillibert and Paul-Dominique Win Vacharasinthu
Starring: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Hollywood Critics Association and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.