‘Annette’ transforms musical into mania

In his English language debut film, Leos Carax creates a unique world that captivates viewers.

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In his English language debut film, Leos Carax creates a unique world that captivates viewers.

Caleb Jenkins, Entertainment Editor

“Annette” is a madman’s musical: strange, funny and sad in equal measures. Its commentary on celebrity life, in and out of the spotlight, sets up to be intriguing but slights itself in the second half. 

French director Leos Carax’s first English-language film tells the story of Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), a provocative comedian, and his romance with world-renowned opera singer Ann Desfranoux (Marion Cotillard). The two couldn’t be more different, yet they share an inexplicable attraction to one another. “Counterintuitive, baby / and yet we remain” sings Ann in one of the film’s many musical numbers, perfectly summing up their characters’ dynamic.

The couple’s lives are changed when they welcome a mysterious newborn daughter into their lives, and their relationship is tested as the world watches. This culminates in a dramatic midpoint shift that changes the course of the plot. 

Driver makes for a compelling lead, giving a performance that is wrought with depth and bringing life to the disarmingly charming, yet slightly misanthropic Henry. He is beloved by many, but he always chances turning the public against him with his darkly cynical sense of humor. 

Cotillard’s performance is far more understated, which is fitting for her character, who is meek, proper and reserved. While Henry is undeniably the focus of the film, Ann provides a suitable foil to his character and opens up opportunities for an in-depth exploration of celebrity culture and how those in the public eye act when no one is watching. 

The follow-through on these themes in the film’s second end does leave a little to be desired, though. It feels as if the film presents the beginnings of a conversation on the personal lives of celebrities but doesn’t ever say anything decisive about this topic. The narrative conclusion is satisfying enough, but the first half of the movie still outshines the last.

The film’s musical aspect sets a fitting backdrop for the offbeat tone of the story, and while the song structure can feel a little repetitive at times, it helps the story glide along and makes the 140-minute run time seem significantly shorter. 

“Annette” is one of the most unique films to come out in years, and its willingness to take risks keeps it entertaining throughout. From Driver and Cotillard’s turbulent onscreen chemistry to the striking visuals of the film, there’s something to admire in every minute of the runtime.