You might have heard that Amazon’s new film opened the Cannes Film Festival with a five-minute standing ovation. What you also should know is the Cannes audience is made up of international participants whose tastes rarely align with the mainstream.
“Annette” might be the first and last high-profile experimental film Amazon Studios sends to Prime viewers, who are more used to films such as “The Tomorrow War” or “Late Night.” However, if you already have the service and want to see something truly bizarre, with the option to turn it off or walk away with no obligations, perhaps it’s the ideal way to challenge your artistic pallet — or your patience.
If you thought the “Cats” musical was ludicrous, “Annette” will give any modern day musical a run for its money. It’s new performing territory for Adam Driver, and while he previewed his singing ability in “Marriage Story,” this role is arguably his most diverse.
Ann (Marion Cotillard) is a revered opera singer with a heavenly voice, drawing large crowds from around the globe. Henry (Driver) is an obtuse comedian with a vulgar and aggressive sense of humor. They meet and fall in love, feeding the tabloids with their flair for dramatics and love of the celebrity lifestyle.
They have a daughter named Annette, and it’s from that point their love for each other begins to dwindle. Their mutual unhappiness in the marriage begins not only to affect their work on the stage but influence it as well. As Annette gets older and begins speaking, they realize she has a unique gift that’s chosen to be shared with the world.
Aside from the musical numbers during intimate moments, campy set pieces and often perplexing dialogue, “Annette’s” most eccentric choice is the use of a wooden puppet (often CGI) as the daughter. It ends up coming across more like a Chucky or Annabelle doll in some horror movie than its intended purpose. The entire film is an exhausting swing at something original that rarely — if ever — works as a whole.
Director Leos Carax has much to say about celebrity and its breeding ground of deceit and destruction, but the package it’s wrapped in, not to mention the unforgivable running time, leaves us with little more than fatigue by its conclusion. While Driver certainly is the focus and the character with the biggest arc and development, Oscar winner Cotillard is extremely underutilized.
“Annette” was originally conceived as an album by Sparks, the American pop and rock duo formed by brothers Ron and Russell Mael, then later turned into a screenplay. “Annette,” like last week’s “The Green Knight,” is another example of a filmmaker choosing to make a film that’s inaccessible to most audiences.
If you reach the end of the bleak journey “Annette” presents, there’s little reward for your endurance. It’s too out there for award consideration, and while there certainly is a niche place for these types of films, Amazon likely won’t venture here again any time soon.
Final Thought: “Annette” is mentally and physically debilitating to watch.