Despite what you may have heard online, Leos Carax’s Annette—available on Amazon Prime now—is not a sexy movie musical about Adam Driver generously singing while performing simulated oral sex on Marion Cotillard. This does happen, and that’s important. But it is even more important to know that actually, Annette is a chaotic cringe rock opera epic about a puppet baby.
Annette follows the turbulent romance between Henry McHenry (Driver), a stand-up comedian who is like if Bo Burnham listened to Joe Rogan’s podcast, and Ann Desfranoux (Cotillard), an opera singer. For a blissful few minutes, things are cinematic and relatively normal: Henry and Ann are in love; Henry and Ann get married. But then they have a puppet baby named Annette, and things go awry from there (there is murder and a lot of other stuff you would not believe if I told you). Annette is like a long-form Lady Gaga music video from the darkest multiverse branch, with songs that sound like the improvised ones I sing to my dog when I’m alone with him. And at the heart of it all is the ultimate girlboss: a singing, floating, red-headed puppet baby who looks like a rejected prototype for the aspiring dentist elf from the stop-motion animated TV film Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
If you haven’t seen the movie, you probably have questions. If you have seen the movie, you definitely have questions. In this blog, you will (hopefully) find out everything you need to know about Baby Annette: what she looks like, what’s up with her career, why she is a puppet, and what her purpose in our lives is. So may we start?
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Annette, in case that is something you care about.
What is Baby Annette?
When I was a kid, one of my friends had a collection of realistic baby dolls. Their eyes opened and closed, and their torsos were filled with something that made them weigh as much as a real baby. They looked like American Girl dolls but with a Chucky vibe. I was terrified of them, and had nightmares every time I saw them. Baby Annette is the puppet version of those dolls: a creepy but well-meaning puppet baby with doll-like joints, a face with the texture of a plaster wall, red stringy hair, and ears as big as compact discs. According to every single character in Annette, Baby Annette is the most exceptional baby who has ever lived because she can sing opera while floating in the air. (She can do this because her murdered mother gave Annette her voice as a way to get revenge on her murderer dad. This movie is a lot to take in.)
Only slightly disturbed by the reincarnated voice of his dead wife (who becomes some kind of sea witch ghost), Henry McHenry immediately takes advantage of Baby Annette’s gift when he discovers it. After Baby Annette performs in front of a crowd for the first time, her career takes off faster than a TikTok teen’s—except Baby Annette is talented. Baby Annette goes on a world tour, and becomes the most famous person on the planet. Crowds chant her name in massive stadiums. Baby Annette is unavoidable, like Taylor Swift during an album cycle.
Baby Annette receives the high honor of sole performer at the Super Bowl (in this film it is called the Hyper Bowl) halftime show, and is carried into the stadium on several drones, clearly inspired by Lady Gaga’s entrance at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2017. However, as Baby Annette spends more time with her father, she—despite being a BABY that is a PUPPET—starts to realize that he is a manipulative murderer, making her a baby detective as well. This is a genuinely impressive baby.
Does anyone in the movie ever acknowledge that Baby Annette is a puppet?
The fact that Baby Annette is a puppet that came out of a human being’s vagina after nine months is never addressed. The only thing about Baby Annette that is addressed, really, is how fucking special she is. But the movie almost breaks the fourth wall a few times. After her birth, Henry McHenry recklessly takes care of Baby Annette, holding her in one hand (admittedly a very large, Adam Driver–size hand) like a little bird while he smokes a cigarette and does yoga. Later, Baby Annette’s lack of internal organs is hinted at when Henry McHenry realizes he’s been sitting on top of her on the couch. Any real baby would have died as a result of this, like Christopher Moltisanti and Adriana’s dog, Cosette, on The Sopranos. But Baby Annette survives her father sitting on top of her on the couch because she is a puppet who does not need oxygen.
At the end of the film, several years have passed and Annette is not a baby anymore. She is still a puppet, but she is now a child puppet. Then, in the middle of a scene, the child puppet falls to the floor and Annette becomes human, played by a human actress who does an excellent job of singing with Adam Driver. In this scene, the film acknowledges both the lifeless puppet and the living, breathing child as Annette. There is clearly magic at work here, but I cannot tell you what it is.
Why is Baby Annette a puppet?
I’m not trying to have beef with a fictional puppet baby, but Baby Annette has kept me up at night. And while I don’t know why Baby Annette is a puppet baby, I have some theories.
The first is quite simple: having a real baby on a film set is inconvenient because they are unpredictable. They can cry or poop at any moment and unfortunately, the Olsen twins (the most professional baby actors of all time) are in their 30s now and therefore not right for this kind of role. Casting a puppet to play Baby Annette is easier than having any real babies on set, and that way production also avoids any child labor laws.
But to go beyond the logistical reasons, Annette is a film about fame: about what it does to you, and how celebrities—such as Baby Annette—are made to sing and dance for everyone’s entertainment. Baby Annette’s status as a puppet could be an on-the-nose reference to themes the film explores. Or maybe Annette is a modern Pinocchio story in which the puppet becomes a real human by visiting their dad in prison to sing with him? Or maybe it’s the simplest explanation: that they made Baby Annette a puppet because it would be super weird.
How does Baby Annette compare to other film babies?
Basically, she is Renesmee Cullen meets the Boss Baby. Baby Annette is special like Renesmee—the child of Edward Cullen and Bella Swann from The Twilight Saga, obviously—in that her existence feels like an otherworldly event and everyone who comes across her becomes obsessed. But Baby Annette is also like the Boss Baby because she is a baby who takes control of her career. (It should be noted that I’ve never seen The Boss Baby.) In terms of her ability to resemble a human infant, she is more successful than Renesmee (never forget) and perhaps as successful as Bradley Cooper’s fake baby in American Sniper.
As I dug deep into my dark memories of Baby Annette and all her adventures, which include playing piano with Simon Helberg from The Big Bang Theory (who is hot now) and dropping into the Super Bowl halftime show on drones, I lost control of my body in a fit of involuntary, hysterical laughter, and eventually ended up literally rolling on the floor laughing. It was a true ROFLMAO, which I didn’t think existed. Not every movie has to have a purpose. Some movies, such as the 2018 masterpiece Venom, simply exist to entertain. But I am unsure why Annette exists. That doesn’t really matter, though. In these perpetually trying times, it is somewhat refreshing to see a strange movie about a singing puppet baby.
Carrie Wittmer is a Brooklyn-based freelance writer with bylines in Vulture, Consequence of Sound, and Harper’s Bazaar. She tweets at @carriesnotscary.