A unique, beautiful animated film that captures the complexities of the human soul.
Anomalisa tells the life of Michael Stone, an author of a widely-recognized book titled, “How May I Help You Help Them?” He visits Cincinnati to give a presentation on customer service. During his time in Cincinnati, he stays in a hotel called The Fregoli. Every person he encounters in the hotel has the same voice—the bellhop, front desk representative, normal people staying in the hotel, etc. This appears to be normal to him, especially when Michael calls home to speak with his wife and son. His wife answers the phone and she sounds exactly like every other character in the film.
Michael’s neurosis becomes even more clear when he meets an ex-girlfriend at the hotel. She sounds like everyone else too. At this point in the film, it becomes clear that Michael hears everyone with the same, exact voice. Strangers and family members all sound alike to him, which suggests that Michael suffers from an unknown psychological condition. Nevertheless, a miraculous moment occurs where Michael hears a woman with a distinct voice, different from every other voice. He runs out of his hotel room and discovers that the voice belongs to a woman named Lisa. As soon as Michael meets Lisa, an instant connection blossoms.
Anomalisa, which is directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman, is one of the best films of 2015. The film, written by Charlie Kaufman, is an interesting, inventive film that showcases a broad range of personality and complexity. Kaufman, who is known for great works, such asEtermal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adaptation, and Synecdoche New York, once again delivers a film that combines interesting storytelling with well-developed characters. If you’re a fan of Kaufman’s earlier work, you will enjoy this film.
The characters in Anomalisa are definitively the strongest part of the movie. Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a well-developed character we grow to sympathize with. From the beginning of his arrival at the hotel to his eventual departure, we learn significant things about him, just by observing the subtle things he does. The way he talks in a conversation suggests that he is uncertain about a lot of things in his life. From these conversations, we understand more about his personality. When certain events happen later in the film, we are not surprised by his actions, due to our understanding of him as a character. Lisa, who is portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh, puts herself down. She sees herself as inferior to others. Whenever Lisa compares herself to her co-workers or friends, we see a broken side to her personality. She has many problems she is dealing with. Lisa and Michael discuss these private moments with each other, which leads to them forming a natural, strong bond. This bond isn’t forced, and it plays out naturally throughout the film.
While the characters keep our attention throughout the film, the animation astonishes us every minute we’re watching. Kaufman and Johnson use stop-motion animation to tell this wonderful story. Their creative team created and animated the puppets we see in the film. What this team did with these puppets will amaze you by how the movements of the puppets resemble how humans move and interact. In the film, a love scene occurs between two characters. The movements of the puppets mirror real humans in the act of sex. The animators meticulously took their time to position the puppets in certain angles to ensure that the scene appeared authentic. This whole scene could have distracted us and brought us out of the movie experience, but thanks to Kaufman and Johnson’s direction, as well as the animators’ talents and patience, they presented one of the most authentic sex scenes in a movie. Since this is an animated film, and not a live-action movie, the film crew should be praised for all their efforts.
On the negative side, the film does have a few drawbacks. The film starts off slow for the first thirty minutes. It doesn’t pick up until Lisa’s introduction into the film. Kaufman and Johnson may have intended the beginning to be slow to reveal how mundane Michael’s life is. While some viewers may appreciate their approach, others may feel bored by the slow beginning.
As a whole, Anomalisa is a great animated film that casual moviegoers and film buffs can enjoy. However, it is definitely not a movie for kids, so only watch with other adults.
Rating: 4 out of 5
- First anomalisa image: ITunes Movie Trailers
- Second anomalisa image: The New York Times