Annette Movie Review

“Annette” is perhaps the first ‘art-house/art-pop operatic musical’ type movie. But this might be the final one ever made, too. The idea to make this unusual style of film was a creative leap of faith. However, this leap might be going into the ‘abyss’. The story is portrayed as combination of normal dialog along with singing vocal dialog. Much like in the tradition of many operas, it tells a story of a tragic cycle of fame and failure. The talent to make this movie is quite abundant. The results are sparse.


Released into theaters August 6
Released on Amazon Prime August 20


The main story involves a stand-up comedian Henry McHenry (played by Adam Driver). He calls himself “The Ape of God”, maybe because his humor is so primitive. He prepares for his show by channeling boxer Jake LaMotta in his dressing room – jabbing and throwing punches into the air. He pummels his audience with provocative taunts and jeers. They applaud and laugh, even when Henry’s rage seems real. The abuse and insults continue all the way to the end of the show. But still the crowd is loud and raucous, and they eat up his act. Henry constantly talks about why nothing in life is funny, and he worried about falling into the ‘abyss’. When Henry walks off the stage, and the curtain drops – so does his drawers.


On the other end of the spectrum is Ann Defrasnoux (played by Marion Cotillard). She is an opera star with the voice of an angel. Her performances always see her character die at the end (as in the case in many operas). So then afterwards she can take a bow. Ann has a special musical accompanist, a fellow who strives to be a world-renown Conductor. The Conductor (Simon Helberg) — and yes that is what he is called — has an unrequited love for Ann. They had a brief love affair, but then Ann met up with Henry McHenry. The attraction of these two total opposites makes the paparazzi heads spin and cameras click.  They tie the knot and make their own ‘marriage story’.


In a similar way as in “A Star is Born”, Henry’s fame begins to fade while Ann’s continues to climb. Soon there is a baby named Annette, and this baby is … different. But safe to say the story swerves into something akin to Pinocchio. Henry has more drinking and carousing issues, and his act goes into the toilet. He gets more and more loathsome, and his audience rejects him. There are televised claims of abuse from multiple women — all daggers of hate aimed towards Henry. Yet Ann and The Conductor continue to move audiences to tears with her vocal talent and his musical ability. She is at the top of her success, with her husband Henry and their child Annette in the wings.


Henry and Ann decide to get away from the limelight. They take Annette on a yacht out into the wild ocean, to make a new start to the romance and respark the love. But the boat trip ends with a sad event that sees Ann receive a fate similar to Natalie Wood. She is lost at sea, with angry suspicions raised against Henry. But there are no charges and no results other than heartbroken fans. Henry must raise little Annette alone, and he discovers her secret gift. Annette might not speak or talk or be anything like other children. But Annette has a voice of an angel, it the voice of her mother — Ann. Henry contacts The Conductor and he plans to bring Annette to the world, so that everyone might hear her wonderful voice.


The Conductor thinks this is child exploitation (and it is) but he is also lost without his beloved Ann. So off they go – generating fame and fortune, and a ton of YouTube hits. The people around the world are enchanted to see the little Baby Annette deliver such a grown-up voice. And even when they all reach the top, Henry still wants to go farther. The Conductor wants to know if, perhaps, that little Baby Annette is really his child. After all, Ann and The Conductor were a thing just before she met Henry. One thing leads to another and soon there is more tragedy, and the police officials are reviewing everything about “The Ape of God”. It appears the Ape had tossed himself into an abyss after all…


“Annette” is … different. The Director (Leos Carax) certainly had a vision as to what type of movie he wanted to make. Along with his co-Screenwriters (Ron Mael Russell Mael – who make up a band called ‘Sparks Brothers”) – they create a musically-defined world. This is filled with songs and music and back-and-forth dialog (set to music). They set out to portray life as an operatic tragedy. The talent they have collectively is intense, but the subject is wasted with such as unlikeable main character.


Adam Driver (a wonderful actor and a passable singer) channels his best ‘Tommy Wiseau’ in his looks and in his performance. He truly believes in the character of Henry McHenry, but he cannot bring anyone along to the finish line. Such a talented actor playing such a mediocre role is criminal. Marion Cotillard is also outstanding, with an inspiring vocal performance wasted on such a low-key character as Ann. Simon Helberg is also very good, but being stuck with such a generic character that they did not even give him an actual name — again, it shows this is production is too ‘artsy’ for its own sake. There is not much ‘there’, there…


“Annette” pretty weird and ‘out there’. The only way this movie could have been more odd, is if it was a bio-pic of Annette Funicello – with Adam Driver playing that part!


Released into theaters August 6
Released on Amazon Prime August 20




Directed by: Leos Carax
Screenplay by: Ron Mael, Russell Mael, Leos Carax
Story by: Ron Mael, Russell Mael
Starring: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, Simon Helberg
Cinematography: Caroline Champetier
Edited by: Nelly Quettier
Music by: Ron Mael, Russell Mael (Sparks Brothers)
Release date: August 6, 2021
Length: 139 minutes
MPAA rating: R for sexual content including some nudity, and for language
Genre: Musical Drama


Rating contributor: JMcNaughton tmc

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