Annette follows a comedian and an opera singer who are boosting a puppet little one. Oh, and it’s also a musical.

In a still from the film "Annette," a ghostly image of Marion Cotillard is superimposed on a photo of a dark highway stretching into the horizon at night.
Amazon Studios

Annette, the fragile youngster at the heart of the director Leos Carax’s new movie, is a fantastic avatar for a operate that can drift from odd to distressing in just 1 scene. She’s the daughter of the hulking comedian Henry McHenry (performed by Adam Driver) and the winsome opera singer Ann Defrasnoux (Marion Cotillard), and is blessed with a singing voice that appeals to the attention of thousands and thousands. She’s also a wooden puppet. And did I mention that this motion picture is a musical?

A great deal of movies defy straightforward description, but summing up Annette is particularly attempting. This operatic fable of adore, superstar, and self-destruction attributes tragic plotting worthy of Puccini and audio by the brothers Ron and Russell Mael (very best regarded as the band Sparks). The motion picture is strange and wrenching, inquiring the viewer to discover humanity inside of the unreal tale of a puppet child’s rise to fame. It is readily available to stream on Amazon Prime Online video starting off this Friday, but if you feel relaxed observing it at a theater, Annette is value currently being locked in with.

A new Carax movie is scarce sufficient to be a cinematic function. Annette is his initially element considering that 2012’s Holy Motors, a phantasmagoric journey via the lives of many Parisian people that was one particular of the most distinctive flicks of the prior 10 years. Some of his other works, this sort of as the stylish AIDS parable Mauvais Sang and the mesmerizing romance The Enthusiasts on the Bridge, are among my all-time favorites. So my expectations for Annette were being substantial, primarily presented that Carax experienced wangled in the A-record Hollywood star Driver, somewhat than his typical leading actor, the spindly Frenchman Denis Lavant.

It is a deserving collaboration. Driver has often been an imposing existence on-monitor, but Carax transforms him into a semi-feral brute. In the film, Henry takes the phase for a comedy set in a boxing gown, muses angrily about death and cruelty, brazenly derides his spectators, and by no means the moment provides a traditional snicker line. The audience eats it up. His monologue recalls many harmful celebrities’ actual-lifestyle meltdowns—no issue how unpleasant his product receives, the crowd only would like additional.

a still from the film "Annette"
Amazon Studios

The stress amongst Henry’s fame and his monstrousness drives Annette, which was created by the Mael brothers and Carax. Henry is a living horror display who proclaims himself “The Ape of God” and spews provocative substance. But his partnership with Ann is undeniably tender early in the film, they croon an earwormy ballad titled—literally—“We Appreciate Every Other So A lot,” 1st although dancing alongside one another in the woods, and later on mid-coitus. Initially, Carax and Sparks look to be spinning a contemporary fable à la Splendor and the Beast, with the charming Ann (whose opera performances are as fragile as her husband’s comedy is not) taming the ferocious Henry.

Then their wooden puppet child is born, and any illusion that Annette may well be a very simple romance is shattered. The film’s 141-moment running time encompasses dying, revenge, creative exploitation, and hauntings from over and above the grave. Carax leans into the witchcraft of cinema just about everywhere that he can: A storm consumes the pair as they dance in front of a display screen projecting a typhoon, and later Annette sings at a absurd-sounding sporting occasion identified as the “Hyper Bowl” whose crassness rivals that of Henry’s stand-up routines. And then there is the puppet baby herself, a strange and attractive kid whose total existence feels like a bespoke nightmare.

Probably her mother nature as an object of leisure is a commentary on the freakish awareness compensated to celebrities’ little ones maybe Carax just didn’t want to function with a youthful actor. Whichever the motive for her condition of being, the puppet is mesmerizing. As Henry and Ann treatment for and in some cases neglect this unfortunate creature, Carax tests the boundaries of the audience’s empathy—can they come to feel for anything so certainly artificial? Does that artificiality heighten the viewer’s appreciate of Annette? Carax pioneered a motion in French moviemaking termed the “cinéma du appear,” which emphasizes slickness and unreality, and in Annette his visuals are as influenced as attainable, befitting the two the melodramatic tale and its glitzy setting.

I will not spoil the plot, but relaxation assured that lots of terrible things occur, typically at Henry’s hands. Even now, the tale is not a person about man’s evil. The film explores the toxic nature of fame, asking regardless of whether Henry’s dim acts are premeditated or fated. Did casting himself as a public monster make him a non-public a person, or had he usually been that vicious? The conundrum rattled me after I remaining the theater experienced I been invested in an inherently destructive character, or could his ethical downfall have been prevented, maybe, if his cheering audience experienced been silenced? Extra than the frequent singing, that’s the way Annette most resembles the sublime tragedy of good opera: You know the sad ending is coming, but the full time, you might be wishing for a way to halt it.