Movie Name: Anomalisa
Studio: Starburns Industries
Release Date(s): September 4, 2015 (Telluride Film Festival)/December 30, 2015 (US)
MPAA Rating: R
Michael Stone sometimes doesn’t even feel human. Everyone seems like the same person just wearing a different mask…his wife, his child, his ex-girlfriend…they all are the same. Travelling to Cincinnati to give a lecture, Michael encounters something he hasn’t seen in ages…maybe ever! Michael meets Lisa, a woman with her own face and her own sound. Michael instantly falls for Lisa…but confusing love, excitement, and life can be dangerous.
Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson, Anomalisa is an adult stop-motion animated feature with a screenplay written by Kaufman. Kaufman adapted his own play Anomalisa (written under the name Francis Fregoli) which originally ran in Los Angeles in 2005. The movie received critical acclaim (becoming the first animated film to win the Grand Jury Prize at Venice) and it also was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.
Charlie Kaufman always takes a different approach. Be it Being John Malkovich or Adaptation, Kaufman generally will add an interesting spin to a movie. This animated feature is no different. Not only is it a unique concept, but it also has a surprising, unnerving effect.
You instantly feel uncomfortable watching this movie. Even if you ignore the full frontal nudity and sex, there is something “off” about Michael and the world he lives in. Everyone being almost identical, and I could have just as easily seen him as a serial killer at the end of the movie or a host of different more sinister options…instead, he really is a normal guy that struggles with life and lack of identity…his meltdown is real, and he’s alone.
The movie only uses three voice actors. David Thewlis is the lonely English Michael Stone who builds fast and furious connections with people out of the hope of love…while not knowing if it is him or them that change. Jennifer Jason Leigh provides the voice of “the change” in his life as Lisa (or Anomalisa). The one who deserves a ton of credit is Tom Noonan however who plays everyone else in the movie. He play different ages, sexes, and multiple characters at one time, and he does it by sounding hollow but also “whole” at the same time.
The movie looks amazing. The animation is great and no detail was spared (the nude scene is an example of that). The movie has a human feel to it despite the fact that none of the characters are real and that is the trick of the movie must pull off to succeed.
In a way, Anomalisa feels kin to a movie like Her. Both movies might contain aspects of fantasy or sci-fi (here the characters aren’t even human), but both stories feel more real than many a cheesy romance. Both stories are sad and more about loss of love than love, but both feel true. Even if it was one night, there is/was a connection that is/was stronger than many have experienced…but moments are fleeting, and Anomalisa wallows in this sad realism.