Anomalisa: Film Review
Cast: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Both a eureka moment for stop motion animation and a musing and discourse on life, Anomalisa is a disturbing piece of cinema, that's now been recognised by the Academy and the awards season in general.
David Thewlis voices Michael Stone, a customer service whiz whose motivational speeches have seen him check into a hotel prior to giving a keynote speech in Cincinnati the next day.
With only the night to keep him company, Stone meets a couple of women who've travelled to attend his seminar and strikes up a friendship with Lisa (Jason Leigh) who suffers from low self-esteem.
Anomalisa is an exercise in bleakness, an allegory of loneliness and a tragedy of a film.
Kaufman's casual mixing of a Barton Fink atmos with a sprinkling of Lost In Translation, along with a miserabilist look at a life on the edge of a mental precipice, gives Anomalisa something of a slightly depressing vibe, all wrapped up in a swathe of melancholia.
But as in any business trip, Kaufman's managed to capture an atmosphere of crippling loneliness and apply it to a man whose outlook is directly contrasted to his perception within the world. Granted, it's not a new idea or story, but it is heartbreakingly transposed to the screen with a stop-motion look that's both a mesh of crash test dummies and Tintin-esque rendering.
Guaranteed to provoke debate and stir divisiveness, Anomalisa strengths lie in its execution.
Haunting and rhapsodic, its perverseness and its starters for conversations over its symbolism will be its appeal to some - and there won't be many who won't fail to be moved in some way by the events within. Or at the very least, recognise something in its melancholy tale. Its progression from a one time only theatre piece to the small screen is a debt owed to its Kickstarter nature and its head-scratching-once-you-dig-below-the-surface premise.
Thewlis uses his voice brilliantly to convey the frailty within this long dark night of the soul but his ultimate unravelling is psychologically distressing. There's an innate sadness and a frustration to Stone, a man whose introspection is a fertile and frequently familiar ground given the way the modern world is going. Wrapping alienation with loneliness is not a unique proposition, and both Kaufman and Johnson know the right tics to expand and expound their viewpoints. And Jennifer Jason Leigh brings an arc to Lisa, the woman with whom Stone connects (or grooms, depending on your take on it all) but whose ultimate destination gives the film the emotional edge it needs.
There's so much to discuss in Anomalisa (is the hotel Fregoli a major clue?) and to do so is to enter spoiler territory, but by throwing in moments of deeply wry humour among an examination and discourse of the human condition, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind scribe Charlie Kaufman has brought to life a reflection and a gradually disquieting essay that's both bizarrely distressing and weirdly enlightening.