The Strangest Film of 2021
On July 6th, 2021 at the Cannes Film Festival, esteemed French director, Leos Carax released his most recent project starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, Annette. In late August, the film became available to watch on Amazon Prime Video, and was exposed to a much larger audience than it was in Cannes. Despite the short time since its release, Annette already stands as one of the strangest and most divisive films of this year so far. So without further ado, here are my thoughts on Leos Carax's wonderfully weird, Annette.
It's profoundly difficult to explain what the film is about in a condensed amount of time since the plot tends to scatter quite a bit throughout the runtime. It starts out as a somewhat biographical account of the relationship, engagement, and marriage of famous, beloved, opera singer Ann Defrasnoux, and the irreverent comedian, Henry McHenry. Later in the film they have a daughter named Annette, and not long after Ann dies after being thrown overboard her yacht in the middle of the ocean. There's also a subplot of Ann's accompanist secretly being in love with her and near the end the film turns into a story about exploitation when Henry begins touring Annette around the country as some sort of child popstar. Are you confused? You wouldn't be the first.
While the plot is strange enough there are many more unique parts of the film that make it truly bewildering. I was very surprised to find out that it was a musical, something I had no warning of until the first song appeared. The first scene of the movie consists of a group of people played by the main cast asking the audience in song "may we start?" however none of them are in costume or seem to be playing their characters. It's certainly a weird way to start your film but it's easy to see that it's supposed to be a prologue. Pretty much nothing else in the movie has the same tone as this scene. Speaking of the music, while there are some scenes that I enjoyed very much, absolutely none 0f the songs could stand on their own without a visual scene happening in front of you. In my opinion, none of them are quite good enough. I also found the film's 140 minute runtime to be more than just a little excessive, I think it could've easily been condensed down to 110 or 120.
Adam Driver's character Henry is some sort of evil Bo Burnham type nihilistic, musical comedian, and although it's not the most original thing in the world, his performance is one of my favorite scenes and Driver gives one of the best performances I've seen from him yet. In fact all of the performances in Annette are top notch. I found Simon Helberg as The Conductor to be one of the most interesting nameless roles I'd seen in a while. And it goes without saying but Marion Cotillard also gives a great performance as well.
Perhaps the most odd choice of Carax's was to make the character Annette, well....a puppet. She remains a puppet until she suddenly becomes a human girl during the film's last scene. I'm not sure if this was a stylistic choice or just an alternative to working with a 3 year old actor but it surely isn't something I've witnessed before onscreen. That is, if we're not counting Pinocchio...
I probably enjoy this film a lot more than the average viewer, mostly because I just love how bold and out-there it is but when it comes to 2021 releases, Annette is a polarizing one. A lot of viewers find it simply too odd to enjoy but as someone who has seen over 2,100 movies, this isn't even in the top 20 weirdest. It doesn't have the accessibility of something like a Marvel film but I for one am happy to see a new, original story portrayed on screen that isn't an adaptation or a sequel. If you have an Amazon Prime subscription I would highly recommend checking out Annette and I think I speak for a lot of people when I say that I'm excited to see what Leos Carax does next!