A stand-up comedian and his opera singer wife have a 2 year old daughter with a surprising gift.
How would one describe ‘Annette’? A rock opera musical from the subversive French director Leos Carax, written and scored by the cult pop rock duo ‘Sparks’. It is certainly an unorthodox musical and one that I suspect may be a little marmite, particularly for those more accustomed to their musicals more in the traditional Broadway show style. For me, I thought this was a breathtaking, thrilling movie with a story that delves into a lot of themes that become increasingly darker as we get into the heart of the movie.
It centres on a romance between two people and how their lives are impacted by the birth of their first child, the ‘Annette’ of the film’s title. They are Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), a provocative stand up comedian who goes by the stage name ‘The Ape of God’, and Ann Desfranoux (Marion Cotillard), a famous opera singer. After a whirlwind romance they settle into the routines of life, which are punctured once their daughter comes along, changing everything. Carax is an intriguing filmmaker who doesn’t make many films, but when he does, they tend to pack a punch, and ‘Annette’ certainly does that. Amongst the movie’s many themes we cover domestic abuse, celebrity culture and exploitation, all delivered through the prism of Sparks music and Carax’s unique approach to storytelling.
I’m a recently converted fan of ‘Sparks’ and whilst the songs don’t strike you as earworms initially (besides the fourth wall breaking opener), I’ve not stopped listening to the soundtrack since. It is weird and bizarre and it mostly works, at least from my perspective! Cotillard is good and has a wonderful singing voice (if that is indeed her, as wiki tells me it is), but it’s Adam Driver who carries the movie, reinforcing his status as one of the most talented actors of our generation. As Henry, he has to play a character who goes from loving to frightening to playful, and that’s just within the confines of his comedic act. He’s one of those performers that you can’t help but be gripped by, regardless of what he’s doing (think of the relatively mundane Jim Jarmusch movie ‘Paterson’, which he led).
I’ve got this far without really mentioning Annette herself who plays a key part in the second half of the film and perhaps not in the way you’d expect, if you were foolish enough to expect anything straightforward from Carax! Safe to say your willingness to go with this aspect of the film will play a large part in your enjoyment of it overall. In my case, I was a big fan!
Directed By: Leos Carax
Starring: Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard and Simon Helberg