After skipping last year’s edition due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the Cannes Film Festival opened with Leos Carax’s Annette. The latest work by the versatile French artist should have been part of the film festival’s 2020 edition, but the director opted to wait for a whole year before releasing the movie so that it could be watched in theaters. After seeing it, it was certainly worth waiting for.
Written by Ron and Russel Mael of the band Sparks, Annette is the love story between Adam Driver’s Henry McHenry and Marion Cotillard’s Ann. Henry is an up-and-coming comedian who sells out every arena with his cynic and nihilistic show, “The Ape of God.” Meanwhile, Ann is a world-famous soprano whose voice enchants the soul of spectators. Together, they look like the perfect couple, both young, beautiful, and popular, completely carefree about the paparazzi who hunt them on every occasion. The product of the passion between the two lovers is Annette, who has been gifted with the extraordinary skills of her parents, but something is off in the relationship between the two stars. Ann feels it in her most intimate moments when she pours out her soul into singing. There is a darker side of Henry that Ann doesn’t know yet, a side which is surfacing after six women accused him of violence. What follows is Henry’s fall from grace and turning out a different man than everybody believed him to be.
For 139 minutes, a magistral Adam Driver leads the cast for this musical. Driver’s Henry McHenry draws comparisons to Arthur Fleck, a comedian who loses his ability to make people laugh and actually dries joy from the fans as the story proceeds. Henry uses his comedy to communicate with the world, he uses it to “disarm them,” but he’s not a funny person, nor stable, at all. Almost everybody agrees with the fact that that Driver is a plenty-potential actor, but this is his most mature act so far. He can sing, make people laugh, make people cry, and he has also been gifted with a statuary physique that overcomes Cotillard. Watchers will find the same verve from Marriage Story mixed with the inner torment of Kylo Ren from the new Star Wars trilogy. If you need more proof for Driver being the face of Hollywood’s new wave of actors, watch his performance in Annette. In case you didn’t know, now you do.
Once again, Marion Cotillard proves that she can sing and her sweet voice perfectly mixes with Driver’s deep one. The French actress feels perfectly at ease with playing the part of a soprano, so much that it feels almost that Carax underused her for this movie. If she hadn’t been such an amazing and gifted actress, she might have considered the career of an opera singer indeed. Simon Helberg deserves mention for his work as the Conductor. Even though he seems to be trapped into the role of the nerdy-best friend à la The Big Bang Theory’s Howard Hollowitz, he plays it majestically.
Leos Carax puts the camera at the service of the story, and he does it with the usual virtuoso that characterizes his works. The French director loves the long takes and he uses them to underline the difficulty of the relationship between the protagonists. Carax also doesn’t mind breaking the 180-degree rule in a frantic dialogue scene between Henry and the Conductor.
While it’s hard to see this movie passing the box-office test since it’s no La La Land or Moulin Rouge, it is indeed a good movie to enjoy in the right mood. The story takes its sweet time to dig deep into Driver’s fall into madness, and it feels a bit weaker at first and at the end. However, the central part where Driver’s Henry loses control and drags Cotillard’s Ann into his madness is definitely worth a watch.
As ComingSoon’s review policy explains, a score of 8 equates to “Good.”Annette is a successful piece of entertainment that is worth checking out, but it may not appeal to everyone.
Disclosure: The critic attended a screening at the Cannes Film Festival for the Annette review.