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Issue 14 September 10, 2021
This week we go through the dark, twisting alleyways of Annette, a new musical starring Adam Driver, Marion Cotillard, and most importantly, a puppet. And we dig into the movie musicals streaming for free on Pluto.
 
ATTENTION NEW YORKERS!

THE WATERMAN
is a new musical comedy (for the stage) from our friends Thicket & Thistle. We love them so much we’re developing a movie musical with them. This show is one of the reasons we decided to do that. Go see it if you’re in New York! (We’re flying there ourselves.)
 
September 9-26, 2021 at The Players Theater
 
At the bottom of the sea lives a peaceful race of “Water People” who come into conflict with the so-called "Land Men" over their reckless pollution and illegal fishing practices. The two civilizations, both deeply suspicious of the other, are on the eve of a globally destructive war when a half-fish, half-man secret agent called The Waterman goes deep undercover as a human to save the day. We grapple with questions about familial obligations, political war tactics, and what it means to love a half-human/half-fish.
 
Rooster Revue subscribers get 30% off with the code: HUMANHEART

• 1M households watched Camila Cabello’s Cinderella on Amazon Prime this week. [Deadline]

Dear White People is ending the series with a musical season! (next issue we’ll have an interview with staff writer Steven J. Kung.) [Vulture]

• Excellent reviews for Cyrano coming out of Telluride. Love Peter Dinklage. Love Joe Wright. And orchestrated by Aaron and Bryce Dessner (from The National and collaborators on Taylor Swift’s latest two albums). [Variety]

Dear Evan Hansen released the first two songs from the soundtrack (which btw will include two new songs that were written for the movie). [Playbill]

• Universal is going big, encouraging people not to write off Dear Evan Hansen despite the negative reactions around the trailer drop. The movie must have something to it, or it wouldn’t be opening the Toronto Film Festival. Here’s an “oral history” as they’re calling it. [THR]

• A promo on Ben Platt’s history with Dear Evan Hansen. [YouTube]

Everybody’s Talking About Jamie may be too positive and uplifting for our time. [The Washington Post]

• Roku is rescuing Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist this Christmas! (and for more seasons) [Deadline]

If you don’t mind commercials, Pluto TV has a channel called Movie Musicals which has musicals but also things related to musicals, like the movie Kinky Boots was based on. Don’t be fooled.
 
Some highlights are:
 
Sing Street
A boy starts a band to impress a girl. Catchy and heartwarming, the movie premiered at Sundance and spawned an off-Broadway adaptation in 2019 that is headed to Broadway.
 
Repo! The Genetic Opera
In a world where body parts are considered property and can be repossessed… A favorite of our friends at Thicket & Thistle (who did we mention have a show right now in NYC).
 
Guys and Dolls
Bill Condon is directing a remake of this classic movie musical. Good luck topping the original, Bill!
 
Hair
We’ve said it before, but this is a cinematic masterpiece, directed by one of the greatest filmmakers, Miloš Forman. The Vietnam sequence which we won’t spoil will take your breath away both musically and cinematically. We’ll write up a whole review of Hair one of these days.
 
Sweeney Todd
Johnny Depp as the demon barber of Fleet Street. A well crafted take on the ultimate Sondheim. Sometimes it feels too slick. Sometimes we wish for better singing. Oftentimes it enthralls.
 
The Apple
The best worst horror musical that Sean wrote about in Issue 10.
 
Anna and the Apocalypse
Christmas? Zombies? A musical? Yes, please. A fun genre mashup that’s lighthearted and just what we need right about now.

Also on Pluto are the classics, Yentl, Fiddler on the Roof, and another Thicket & Thistle favorite, The Inspector General.
 

Annette (2021)
Los Angeles, today. Henry (Adam Driver) is a stand-up comedian with a fierce sense of humor who falls in love with Ann (Marion Cotillard), a world-renowned opera singer ... The birth of their first child, Annette, a mysterious little girl with an exceptional destiny, will turn their lives upside down. (IMDb)

Directed by Leos Carax
Original Story and Music by Sparks
Lyrics by Ron Mael, Russell Mael & RC
 

“I hate that there aren’t real songs! This minor key thing until your ears bleed is just not for me.”
 
“I thought the stand up stuff went on too long. Ponderous, ultimately .. meh.”
 
“Huge problems. I turned it off after 20 minutes.”


These are three opinions from three different friends of mine (all musical obsessed) who could not make it through Annette. 
 
I saw the film on its opening weekend cause there was a Q&A from Ron and Russell Mael (better known as Sparks) who I’ve been obsessed with since I saw Edgar Wright’s documentary, The Sparks Brothers (great, btw, and worth watching). And I left the theater torn. Is it a work of art that required further study? Or is it simply bad, like my friends believe?
 
I just rewatched it on Prime to find out. Spoilers below.

 
THE PERFORMANCES
 
Adam Driver is a phenomenal actor and manages to pull off one of the least likeable characters in film history. I mean, murdering your wife cause she’s more successful than you? Exploiting your child? Drinking and smoking and still feeling sorry for yourself? There’s no “Save the Cat” moment. There’s nothing to hold onto except an exceptionally long stand up routine that isn’t very funny. But I’d say he does pull it off. I wish Marion Cotillard was given more screen time cause she’s exceptional as always. It’s clearly a movie told from the male point of view. Simon Helberg was delightful the little we did see of him. I wish his character was more developed, particularly in the first half of the movie. His involvement in the story was often jarring. I think showing him write “their song” or at least some hint that Ann reciprocated his love would have helped the second half of the movie land better. 

THE PUPPET
 
The best performance of all was the puppet, Annette. If you don’t know La Pendue, their work is worth checking out. The nuance of facial expressions and movement. The actors also deserve props for their performances with the puppet, both in believability but also it appears that they had to operate the puppet in certain shots. The puppet also believably ages little by little through the second half of the movie. Simply magical work.
 

THE MUSIC
 
Don’t go into the movie expecting showtunes. You’ll be disappointed. The vocals are dialogue and inner thought. After seeing the trailer for Annette months ago I was OBSESSED with the song “So may we start?” I think it’s witty and catchy and tongue in cheek. It’s the first song in the film and sets the stage well for what’s to come. The movie is doing a lot of the things that we love at The Barn: the singers are singing live (and sound fabulous*), the music is daring and doesn’t play into the typical tropes of movie musicals. The combination of pop and opera is really quite interesting. I do wish there were a few moments at least where the musical was allowed to shine and blossom into what musical fans truly love. If you’ve listened to Sparks, you know they’re capable. But I do find myself singing a lot of their motifs to myself today (the day after I watched it) so there must be something to it.
 
I will say that on the first viewing I missed a lot of Ann’s singing, partly because hers is more operatic, and partly because of her accent. I turned on the subtitles halfway through my second viewing and that helped tremendously.
 
Sparks is one of those bands that has lasted and lasted partly because they were always willing to try new things, to break new boundaries. This also is the reason they never broke through to the superstardom of their contemporaries. And they love repetition. And they love repetition. It’s often delightful, but contributes to the two hour twenty minute runtime. Cause they love repetition.
 
*Fabulous in an authentic portrayal of emotions and feeling. Don’t expect Jonathon Groff and Idinda Menzel, but that’s not what this movie needs. 
 
For a fascinating trip through music history, check out the star-studded documentary by Edgar Wright on Ron and Russell Mael's 50 years of making music together.
THE STORY
 
The film is a study of male rage, and how that rage can be misconstrued as genius, and how dangerous that is for our culture. Henry McHenry starts at the pinnacle of success in a rage-fueled one man show (with four female backup singers) that feels more exploitative than honest. Over the next two hours, he kills everything he loves. Racked with guilt, Driver does everything he can to help us empathize with this monster, but I didn’t care. 
 
Throughout the film I kept wanting more of Ann. Her opinions and feelings and actions all seemed to be how she felt and related to her husband. I understand that her mistreatment is the point of the film, but somehow the movie does exactly what it’s critiquing: setting us up to think of Driver as a genius, for his genius portrayal of a monster.
 
OVERALL
 
I’m glad the movie was made, but I wanted to like it more than I actually liked it. Adam Driver and Marion Cotillard can hold their own. The Mael brothers have a unique and interesting voice. It’s a daring, exciting, experiment for sure. But no matter how much it didn’t work, I learned a lot and will be using some of their techniques in the future. 
 
Movie Service Date
Annette Theatrical Now Streaming
Cinderella Amazon Prime Now Streaming
Everybody's Talking About Jamie Amazon Prime 9/17/2021
Dear White People S4 Netflix 9/22/2021
Dear Evan Hansen Theatrical 9/24/2021
Tick, Tick... Boom! Netflix 11/10/2021
Encanto Disney+/Theatrical 11/24/2021
West Side Story Theatrical 12/10/2021
Zoey's Extraordinary Christmas Roku Christmas
Cyrano Theatrical 12/31/2021
Write To Us
We love hearing from our readers. If you’ve got a movie musical YOU love and want to tell us about it, hit reply and let us know why. We’ll start posting them in future issues.

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"Rooster Revue" is edited by Matt Andrews and Jeffrey Simon with contributions from the entire team at The Barn. Read past issues in the archive

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