It is a temperate July evening, and cinema is in the air. The magic of it all makes its official return to the French Riviera for the in-person 74th Festival de Cannes. In 2020, the festival decided to make the tough decision of canceling the event. This was the first time this has happened since World War II. Now, with its return, the festival kicks off with one of the most anticipated cinematic experiences, Annette.
The opening film of the 2021 festival is directed by French film director Leos Carax, his first in seven years. When it comes to its plot, it follows stand-up comedian Henry (Adam Driver) and the acclaimed opera singer Ann (Marion Cotillard). They are a seemingly head-over-heels in love couple that has their first child and experiences a rude awakening.
Lights go down, and what ensues is a killer track that launches Annette onto a path of greatness. The Sparks pop-rock, operatic influence is contagious and moving, sending you into a foot-tapping rhythm. The opening itself is very strong, giving the impression that it will hold up to be one of the greatest discoveries of this past year. However, the rest of the film struggles with what feels like an identity crisis.
Frankly, no one will be prepared for what they’re about to see. Any preconceived notion of what Annette may be must be ignored because it defies expectation and rules itself as an unpredictable journey. It was all very experimental, to say the least. There comes a point where the film is overwhelmingly composed of many influential palettes and inspiring literary elements. To an extent, it often feels like a Greek tragedy with a Lynchian twist. While groundbreaking in certain aspects, it loses itself to its own desire to be more than what it is.
There is a lot to admire about Carax’s work. Annette pushes boundaries and buttons through its provocative farce. It is both charming while being dissonant and cacophonous. There is in fact a lot to admire. It is a spectacular character study with symbolic thematic occurrences, a brilliant production design, and precise directing. Ultimately, where it seems to collapse is in its central message.
What is this movie truly about, and who is the intended audience? It will surely require multiple viewings to fully grasp what is actually happening. Then again, perhaps it is simply a superficial exploration of male rage as an attempt to bring awareness to violence against women. It presents a lot of current topics when it comes to the issues women face in society. However, the film restrains itself thanks to this exact male-driven perspective. It left you wanting more out of Ann.
As the musical it sets out to be, there is a lot to celebrate. It is a fantastic exploration of character, with Adam Driver giving a dedicated performance. Many firsts happen within the musical film genre throughout the viewing when it applies to Driver’s Henry McHenry specifically. Marion Cotillard shines like a star bathed in moonlight as Ann in an entrancing performance. As well, Simon Helberg gives a surprisingly evocative performance himself.
In the end, as an art piece, it will definitely impact viewers for a long time. – Josie Marie
The film will have its North American release in theaters on August 6th. It will then have its online premiere on August 20th with Amazon Prime Video.
It stars Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and Simon Helberg.