“Annette” tests your limits for the bizarre
Directed by French director Leos Carax (“Holy Motors”), the musical is incredibly ambitious with its savage story of an imploding Los Angeles celebrity couple and their supernatural talented daughter. (Imagine “A Star Is Born” but with vocals during sex and puppet kids.) “Annette” tries to be an avant-garde rock opera, a modern celebrity culture farce, and a family drama tragic, all set in a bizarre and puzzling concoction, and not even an invigorated Driver or songs from cult art-pop group Sparks can elevate the film to its lofty goals.
Musical siblings Ron and Russell Mael, the subjects of Edgar Wright’s wonderful new documentary “The Sparks Brothersâ€, Originally hatched the idea forâ€œ Annette â€and will have at least a little more screen time this summer. They join Driver, co-stars Marion Cotillard and Simon Helberg, children in dresses, women in nightgowns and even Carax himself for walking in the streets singing the first number of the movie “So May We Start”. He both greets the audience in the offbeat atmosphere of the film and also proclaims that it is not “Les MisÃ©rables”.
From there, we find out the details of the movie: Henry McHenry (Driver) is the bad boy in stand-up comedy – think Andy Kaufman crossed with Eminem – and Ann Defrasnoux (Cotillard) is a famous opera singer. They meet, have a whirlwind romance, get married and have a daughter, Annette (played by puppets from birth to 6 years old), who even at an incredibly young age boasts of her mother’s singing voice. The other part of the complicated equation is the conductor (Helberg), Ann’s longtime accompanist who loved her from afar and regrets never telling her that this toxic lover is in her. life.
Ann is on the rise, Henry’s increasingly lopsided career is on a downward trajectory, and their volatile relationship worsens as Henry tries to keep the family out of public view. It all leads to a stormy and tragic night at sea that changes their entire lives, even Annette’s, and Henry’s dangerous nature comes to the fore as he struggles to play the father of a family.
Driver is formidable and superb in a wide variety of roles, from Henry loudly heckling his own fans to lovingly holding his young child. He’s as good as he was in his Oscar nominee “Marriage story” role tracing this downward spiral of anger and resentment, but with a heavy dose of macho bravado here. As a character, Ann never quite fits Henry, although Cotillard does what she can and there are certain times when she is downright obsessive. Another intriguing dynamic lies between the towering Henry and the little conductor, and Helberg (best known for “The Big Bang Theory”) is a playsheet for Driver.
Amid the over-the-top melodrama, Carax creates some amazing scenes and, later in the film, touching flourishes. There is a darkness that permeates, however, that doesn’t quite match Sparks’ exuberant music. For the uninitiated, the group is also a bit of an acquired taste: the Maels are known for their minimalist and lyrical rehearsal, so don’t expect Bernstein-style show tunes. and Sondheim.
â€œAnnetteâ€ is really weird even for those who dig the really weird, and filled with weird choices, one of them being the puppet child. Even if you’ve indulged in Carax’s surreal fantasy landscape, a puppet child shakes you right away, though one scene in particular with Annette and Henry is vividly real. The film contains many very disparate pieces, but unfortunately never finds harmony between them.
on four stars
To classify ; sexual content, nudity, language
2 hours 19 minutes
In theaters; available August 20 on Amazon Prime