[Screen It]


(2021) (Adam Driver, Marion Cottillard) (R)

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Musical: A provocative stand-up comedian and an opera singer marry and then have their lives changed upon the arrival of their unique daughter.

Henry McHenry (ADAM DRIVER) is a stand-up comedian whose act is of the caustic performance art variety. He ends up marrying renowned opera singer Ann Defrasnoux (MARION COTILLARD) and the two have a child they name Annette, much to the delight of the tabloids that feed off any new celebrity news.

Much like they do in reporting that while her career is skyrocketing, his is crashing to Earth. Things become more complicated after tragedy strikes, and Henry discovers that young Annette can sing just like her mother. As he tries to capitalize on that, he must contend with his erratic behavior and a revelation that soon undermine his emotional stability.

OUR TAKE: 2 out of 10

It's usually never a good thing when a review mentions a wooden performance, unless, of course, it comes from a character comprised in one way or another of wood. Granted, unless you're talking about Pinocchio or Groot from the "Guardians of the Galaxy" universe, most of those fictional creations are supporting or otherwise minor characters.

And they range from the title one in the recently released "The Green Knight" to the one in "When A Monster Calls" back through those in the "Harry Potter" and "Lord of the Rings" flicks to the bedroom-raiding tree in "Poltergeist" and way back to the upset apple tree in "The Wizard of Oz."

That made up wood "tradition" continues in "Annette," although in my wildest flight of fancy I never imagined such a character would appear in this musical that kicked off this year's Cannes Film Festival and stars Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard. I guess it's a spoiler -- although I really don't care as I grew increasingly frustrated and utterly bored by this uber artificial offering -- but the titular offspring of their two characters ends up carved directly from the Pinocchio line of wooden children.

I'm guessing that's supposed to be the symbolic result of the non-realistic performing nature of her parents -- Driver plays a caustic and provocative stand-up comedian who delves in theatrics on stage while Cotillard plays an opera singer -- as well as their relationship as a famous couple in the public and tabloid limelight. Or it could mean something else entirely. Whatever the case, the film -- from writer/director Leos Carax and co-writers Ron Mael and Russell Mael from the American pop and rock duo Sparks -- left me as cold as the title character's "skin."

It's pompous and pretentious to no end and filled with substandard musical numbers whose repetitive lyrics make those in "It's a Small World" seem like something I'd want to listen to on perpetual repeat (and I despise that song, based on hearing it ad nauseum on the ride of the same name long ago).

That said, the film will likely have some supporters among critics and art house afficionados who might be fooled into believing this is high art and/or are otherwise just full of themselves, like the filmmaker. But regular moviegoers will likely hate this offering with every fiber - get it? - of their being.

With Cotillard unfortunately relegated to supporting status in a severely underwritten and barely utilized role, the heavy lifting lands squarely on Driver's wide shoulders. And for a bit, he seems willing and able to carry the load in creating an unlikable but initially interesting character.

But it's not long before we realize little is going to come of that in the bare bones plot, and I imagine the only thing most people will remember about the flick - again, don't forgot the kid is a wooden puppet and no one seems to notice - is its most audacious element. And that's Driver singing a song (and no, it's not the alphabet one) while engaged in a bedroom activity that typically isn't exactly conducive to participating in a musical number.

At around 140 minutes, I couldn't wait for the film to be over, be that through the title character coming down with a termite infestation or an unfortunate Fargo-esque trip through a woodchipper. "Annette" rates as a 2 out of 10.

Reviewed July 26, 2021 / Posted August 6, 2021

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