- Emma Simmonds
- 1 September 2021
Sparks and Leos Carax collaborate on a marvellous musical, starring Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard
This marvellous, abundantly imaginative musical is the result of an inspired collaboration between siblings Ron and Russell Mael (aka pop rock duo Sparks) and visionary French director Leos Carax (Holy Motors). Creatively, you couldn't wish for a happier marriage – what a shame the story is about such a sad one.
Adam Driver is mesmerising as superstar stand-up Henry McHenry, a provocative, black-clad figure, in the rock'n'roll comedian mould of Denis Leary or Bill Hicks. McHenry gives off some of the dark energy Driver brought to Star Wars, with a touch of his more conventionally troubled yet tender Girls persona. The funny man is at the height of his fame, as is his French fiancée Ann (Marion Cotillard), an adored actress / soprano, currently dying on stage nightly and whose ominous professional exploits hardly bode well for her personal life. Nevertheless, the two marry and, soon enough, baby Annette comes along.
This is a musical with a capital M, even Driver's stand-up act is part sung, with the crowd answering him back as a chorus, whether appalled or enthralled. It's outrageously fun then heartrendingly tragic, the simple, repetitive and unmistakable musical style employed by Sparks is infectious and the numbers are often wonderfully mobile, frequently taking to the streets. Deliberately fantastical, fairytale-like backdrops and imagery merge with more realistic environs, with the cast appearing as themselves at the outset before proceedings get underway, as they deliver the rousing opener 'So May We Start'.
Such playfulness is irresistible, but Annette is not without its flaws. Driver's Henry is substantially more interesting than the thinly drawn and idealised Ann, despite Cotillard's best efforts, and the film is a touch overlong at 141-minutes, particularly given its simple story. But it's so vividly realised and thrillingly cinematic that it's one of the year's must-sees regardless.
Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 3 September.