Movie musicals have experienced a significant comeback in the past few years. The format works across multiple genres, from the Oscar bait A Star Is Born to popcorn-fun In the Heights and streaming hits like Hamilton. But the latest movie musical coming to big and small screens is yet a fourth type of film: the arthouse flick. According to all reviews out of Cannes Film Festival, Adam Driver’s Annette is arty, bizarre, and bombastic, a kooky oddball of a film that fans of the actor should not miss. So, here are all the details about Annette before you watch it:
Driver plays Henry McHenry, a stand-up comedian with a massive following, whose shows pack arena-sized venues. He falls in love with Ann Defrasnoux, played by Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard, a world-renowned opera singer. The two become a Bennifer-like couple, living their lives loudly in the spotlight. But when they have their first child, described as “a mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny,” any control the two had over their lives is turned upside down, as Henry’s career craters while Ann’s takes off to new heights.
On the surface, this looks to be a weird criss-cross of A Star is Born with fantasy elements grafted on, plus elaborate musical numbers. But with critics promising something much more bizarre than the synopsis can capture — and the film getting a standing ovation lasting a full five minutes at its Cannes premiere — the film is rapidly becoming a must-see movie of the summer.
So, just how off the wall is Annette? Fans got their first look at the film back in June 2021, when the movie premiered at Cannes and went on to win Best Director for the film’s mastermind, Leos Carax. But it’s the final trailer, which was put out by Amazon on Aug. 4, that captures the movie’s dream-like quality, which slowly seeps into nightmare.
Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard headline the film as the central couple of Henry McHenry and Ann Defrasnoux. (Cotillard also does all her own singing in the flick.) But they aren’t the only names involved here.
The Big Bang Theory’s Simon Helberg plays the “The Conductor,” the nameless man who has stood in the orchestra pit conducting Ann for her entire career. He’s also been madly in love with her for years and regrets never telling her his feelings now that she’s fallen into this increasingly toxic relationship.
Newcomer Devyn McDowell plays the child, Annette, once she reaches the age of six. Before that, the baby and toddler versions are puppets. Yes, you read that right. Puppets.
Also in significant roles: the duo behind the film’s music, Ron Mael and Russell Mael of the band Sparks, a band from the 1970s and early 80s, which was a major influence on New Wave music. The two play themselves when they’re not playing jet pilots.
For those who haven’t listened to Sparks’ albums, their approach to pop music is often theatrical but not precisely what one would call lyrical. In short, these are not your regularly scheduled showtunes, although they are often earworms.
How To Watch Annette
Annette technically had its theatrical premiere at Cannes; the movie opens in U.S. theaters on Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. But for those who would rather stream it at home, the wait won’t be long. Annette streams on Amazon Prime Video two weeks later, debuting on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021.