From the mind of Charlie Kaufman, writer of such kooky endeavours as Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind comes Anomalisa: no less weird, but far more human.
Anomalisa is an animated comedy/drama written and directed by Charlie Kaufman. It stars David Thewlis as the voice of Michael Stone, a older man crippled by the mundanity of his life who desperately wishes to break free during a business trip to Ohio.
This is an incredibly unique and stylish film. And extremely arthouse. Take note, because if introspection, metaphor and offbeat stylistic choices aren’t to your taste, you will struggle to like this film. But if you do? This is quite the picture.
While nothing particularly ‘happens’ per se, the film’s exploration of human connection, mediocrity and intimacy is subdued, clever and incredibly intelligent. The most impressive aspect is how authentic the characters, events and dialogue feel. Michael Stone is a broken, sad man who is struggling for a purpose, and while nothing is ever said outright, his progression and ideals regarding his own existence is fascinating to dissect. The events and scenes of Anomalisa stayed with me, burrowing into the recesses of my mind for days after I’d experienced it. And that isn’t a sign that it succeeded, I don’t know what is.
The film utilises a unique puppetry/stop motion hybrid in order to bring its character’s to life. Unique, but unsettling. There’s a prominent slit in the the puppet’s forehead which is incredibly noticeable (and slightly annoying), but the introspective and offbeat nature of the picture makes me feel as if that is intentional. Its not life. Its a poor imitation of life. But even so, it does make the film a tad difficult to watch initially which does hamper the experience of the film so I’d still peg it as a negative.
The performances (all three of them) are worth mentioning as well. Yes, three. David Thewlis as Michael is achingly human and emotional in key scenes, and does such a good job that I did not recognise his voice until days after. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa (who I won’t get into too much due to spoilers) is equally as a chameleon in the role. And the last guy? Tom Noonan? He voices everyone else. Literally. It says on IMDB, Tom Noonan: Everyone else. Its a very specific stylistic choice to highlight the mundanity of Michael’s life and is incredibly effective. Its also a symbol of the film itself: lots of little inspired stylistic choices combined to make a powerful and introspective art piece.
To anyone not interested in the strange or the introspective should avoid Anomalisa. Its not going to do anything for you. But to everyone else who is looking for a film to make you think and feel, this piece of art is just the right meditation on human connection you are looking for.
General Audiences: Not Recommended
Film Buffs: Recommended