An unusually satisfying musical about love and fame from the unusually eccentric Sparks Brothers.
The art pop band Sparks (Ron and Russel Mael), recently featured in Edgar Wright’s documentary, The Sparks Brothers, has crafted a bizarre, surreal, and all-too-real film that explores the consequences of fame, child exploitation, male stupidity, and marriage. It’s a smart rarity, where the characters mostly communicate in song and nothing is safe, not even love.
Henry (Adam Driver), a successful comedian, loves opera singer, Ann (Marion Cotillard, but fame for both is a deal breaker. You’ve heard it all before (A Star is Born anyone?), and to some extent the disintegration of their marriage is close to a cliché, but their singing and the lack of haranguing or bitter tirades almost has you thinking they can make it. To those adoring fans on the outside, their union is perfect.
With the entrance of their baby girl, Annette, and Ann’s exit, Henry is left to his own devices relying on others to care for her but becoming obsessive about Annette’s gifted voice. It doesn’t take him long to exploit her talent around the world and for the fates to catch up with him.
Driver is particularly effective as a towering talent (his comedy act is unusually odd and bright), brooding and elusive. Although Cotillard could always carry a picture (La Vie En Rose), this one belongs to Driver, whose character is as charged as his performance.
Special credit must be given to the Sparks Bros, who wrote the story and the music, evocative of Brian De Palma’s Phantom of Paradise and any Sondheim, and to French director Leos Carax, whose off-center vision helps Annette be a wildly different take on the ravages of fame and the hubris of men.
Slow and eccentric for some, just quirky and insightful for others, this romance is artistically enough for anyone wanting a worthy drama that happens to be a musical.
Director: Leos Carax (Holy Motors)
Screenplay: Russell Mael
Cast: Adam Driver (Paterson), Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose)
Run Time: 2h 19m
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JohnDeSando62@gmail.com