'Annette': A rock opera of surreal proportions
WHERE Streaming on Amazon Prime
WHAT IT'S ABOUT "Annette" is a surrealist cinematic rock opera from French director Leos Carax, with songs written by Ron and Russell Mael of the band Sparks.
Should you happen upon the movie while looking for something to watch on Amazon Prime — where it's now streaming — be assured that it'll be unlike anything else around it.
Adam Driver stars as Henry McHenry, a stand-up comedian who marries popular soprano Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard). They have a child together named Annette, depicted onscreen as an exceptionally creepy marionette.
Shortly thereafter, their marriage takes a turn for the worse, Henry discovers their infant daughter/nightmarish puppet has a magical signing voice and the movie gets even stranger.
Simon Helberg co-stars, playing a character named The Accompanist, and the actors do almost all of their own singing live.
MY SAY "Annette" is the sort of movie that defies an instantaneous reaction: it is its own unique thing, with actors that are unafraid to fully embrace a sort of fever dream weirdness.
It's hard to know exactly what to make of all this Sturm und Drang as the movie's unfolding, but Carax sure does offer up a spectacle.
The filmmaker indulges heavily in operatic images and super-impositions: characters waltz across the deck of a yacht as big waves are projected in the background. The fourth wall shatters, haunting premonitions take shape and the movie's vision of celebrity culture in Los Angeles plays like something David Lynch might have conjured.
The scope is vast: audiences of hundreds sing and chant in unison; a montage takes Driver and some other characters across the world, while these adventures culminate in a Super Bowl-like event.
Driver steams and smolders — he devours the scenery when his character is onstage in a green robe performing his menacing comedy, and sings as if the words are coming from a foreboding place.
As scripted, his Henry McHenry is miserable and misanthropic and Driver fully embraces that direction. There's no reason to feel for this person, or to care about him in the slightest as he spirals downward, but it's certainly riverting to watch.
Cotillard and Helberg play characters that are, for a lack of a better term, more human, but they're also overshadowed by the star as he tramples across the screen.
Even as the movie makes allusions toward significance, it's not clear that there's actually much below the surface. The picture operates around an obvious central metaphor about show business children — Annette is being manipulated by the adults around her as if she were no more than a puppet.
The other details in its depiction of the vagaries of celebrity and the destructive effect of jealousy and competitiveness on a relationship are not exactly eye-opening either.
But no matter: "Annette" is fun from its first off-kilter moment to the last, a grandiose melodrama in which everyone involved recognizes exactly what the material demands and goes right after it.
BOTTOM LINE If you're a fan of rock operas such as "Tommy" or "Hedwig and the Angry Inch," you won't want to miss "Annette."