Annette review: A bonkers and totally brilliant musical laced in sardonic humour

·1-min read

Star Wars legend Adam Driver has panache up the kazoo and will soon be striking a magnificent pose in two Ridley Scott films (one of them the hotly anticipated House of Gucci). But Driver’s just as happy in quirky indie projects. Along with French director Leos Carax, Sparks duo Ron and Russell Mael, and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, the 37-year-old actor has now made a musical that resembles A Star Is Born, as re-jigged by Charlie Kaufman after watching The Shining and La boheme on loop. It’s bonkers and totally brilliant.

Driver plays Henry McHenry, an LA-based comedian who, initially at least, seems like an anarchic bad-boy, the kind of stylish, lone-wolf-on-wheels so often romanticised in self-indulgent, misogynistic piffle. Luckily, Carax and his team pull off the sublime trick of fetishising Driver without fetishising Henry.

The latter, having wowed successful opera singer, Ann (Cotillard), gets nasty once they have a baby together. Ann senses, instinctively, that this emotionally damaged joker has lashed out at women before. Later, the couple’s red-headed daughter Annette (represented by various uncannily soulful puppets) will analyse Henry with the same dreamy intensity.

Carax and the Mael brothers cameo in opening number So May We Start (Handout)
Carax and the Mael brothers cameo in opening number So May We Start (Handout)

Everything – from the production design to the eclectic, genre-defying songs – is laced with sardonic humour. Whilst always avoiding cheap shots, the film has so much fun with Henry’s petulance, promiscuity, resilience and commercial nous. It’s brutal out here. Annette helps us understand why.

140 mins, 15. In cinemas from today

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