“Annette” a Head-Scratcher

An undoubtedly frustrating and absolutely beguiling head scratcher of a fever dream musical, Leos Carax’s Annette (C+) is the love child of Sweeney Todd and Chucky from Child’s Play and plays like a dystopian La La Land in its biting take on twisty Hollywood romance. Set to an unusual parade of songs by the band Sparks, it’s more of a film experience to let wash over you rather than ever taking it too literally or seriously. A sensational and physically ominous Adam Driver absolutely sells the central performance of an unhinged comedian who marries an opera singer (a resplendent but underused Marion Cotillard) and starts a family including the marionette child of the film’s title. Carax is known for mixing the natural and artificial, so it’s appropriate he leverages a Brechtian rock opera approach with songs like “We Love Each Other So Much” as a stand-in for an actual courtship and “I’m an Accompanist” to introduce Simon Helberg’s character who is exactly that on the piano. The oddball styling of the songs and sequences, the bonkers shifts in tone and vocal quality and the meandering plot line don’t add up to a cohesive whole, but boy is it an intriguing mixed bag of an experiment. And for fans of Driver, this is probably the most Driver performance you’ve ever seen.

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