Annette looks a lot like opera. It’s quite long, the story can be confusing at times and there is a LOT of chanting. The majority of the film is sung, not spoken. Like opera, most viewers might be put off by these aspects of the film. However, if the viewer can look beyond unconventional creative choices, a tragic and deeply emotional story can be found in what is, essentially, an opera in the form of a film.
Annette is a romantic drama that follows Henry McHenry (Adam Driver), an irreverent comedian, and Ann (Marion Cotillard), a famous opera singer. The film revolves around the relationship between Henry, Ann and the family they create with the birth of their baby girl, Annette (Devyn McDowell). Annette lack of a traditional story structure that works to its advantage and to its detriment. The lack of a conventional plot may put some viewers off, but it also helps audiences focus on the emotions displayed.
There isn’t much of a major conflict for the first half of the movie. The first half focuses primarily on how much Henry loves Ann and how Ann’s love for Henry seems illogical to the average viewer. It’s a smooth first half that displays real love, but also little real direction. The second half of the film dramatically increases the conflict. It feels like there is a direction with the display of strong emotions. If the first half is the joyous life and eternal bliss of Henry’s perfect life, then the second half is the tragic and depressing road it takes after Henry’s actions.
Contrary to what most movies should be told, the story isn’t what matters Annette. What really does Annette shining is the performance of each. As in a play, a musical or an opera, it is the actors who stand out and leave the audience in awe. As mentioned before, the whole movie is sung. Annette is almost exclusively a musical with the exception of a few spoken dialogue. There are times in the movie when large crowds of people sing together, and it’s really amazing. Large choirs sing in response to what the main characters are doing throughout the film.
Said performance is shown in a manner very reminiscent of a scene. Most of the scenes are shot in such a way that the viewer focuses more on the actors than on the environment, and the environments presented appear closed and almost artificial. There is rarely a scene where a character does not occupy the majority of the shot. It helps the audience focus on the characters, their struggles, and their reactions to those struggles. It also makes the film feel like more of a play by removing the distraction of elaborate sets or the use of heavy CGIs. While not everyone will like this choice, the film definitely gives the impression of being in a theater watching a play.
Like any good musical, the main characters steal the show. Two characters in particular narrowly outperform the rest of the cast. The first is The Accompanist (Simon Helberg), Ann’s unnamed accompanist in his opera. Most viewers will recognize Helberg as Howard Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory. While this is a drastic change, Helberg makes a graceful transition from a goofy sitcom actor to a wonderful dramatic singer. Admittedly, Helberg’s voice is a bit difficult to disconnect from his The Big Bang Theory character, but the performance he gives is so good that the viewer will forget the wacky old Howard Wolowitz for the duration of the film.
Helberg’s performance is incredible, but Driver’s performance is simply phenomenal. Much like The Accompanist, Henry will also be widely recognized by fans watching. Annette. Henry is played by none other than Adam Driver. Most will recognize Driver for his performance as Kylo Ren in the Star wars sequel trilogy, but his performance in other films such as BlackKkKlansman, Lucky logan, and Annette, prevent it from being labeled as the capricious antagonist of the Star wars sequel trilogy. The driver’s performance is spectacular. This particular viewer was very captivated by his character and the range that Driver was able to achieve with Henrey McHenry. Driver makes audiences love and hate the tragic character of Henry with ease. Driver performance is the highlight of Annette and that’s the only reason you have to watch Annette. Who knew Adam Driver could sing?
Annette is not for everyone. It takes about thirty minutes to realize that everyone in the movie is singing for the entire movie, unlike traditional musicals. However, if the viewer chooses to stay after this achievement, they will be in for a tragic modern day opera that is enjoyable to watch and listen to. Once you accept this Annette more like a Shakespearean tragedy than a modern Hollywood movie, so the experience should be very powerful.