[Film Review] Anomalisa (2015)

Anomalisa poster

Title: Anomalisa
Year: 2015
Country: USA
Language: English, Italian
Genre: Animation, Romance, Comedy, Drama
Charlie Kaufman
Duke Johnson
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Music: Carter Burwell
Cinematography: Joe Passarelli
Voice Cast:
David Thewlis
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Tom Noonan
Rating: 7.8/10

Anomalisa 2015

An R-rated stop-motion animation feature from the genius mind screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, his second foray in the director’s chair (shared with Duke Johnson this time), 7 years after his metaphysical debut SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK (2008).

Framed the story in the mundanity of a middle-aged family man Michael Stone’s (Thewlis) business trip to Cincinnati, Ohio, from the very start, the film leaves a big question mark hovering around, why painstakingly has it been made in this puppetry format instead of a live action, where everything can be more conveniently created in a real physical world? There must be a reason for that, but Kaufman refrains to give it away for at least ⅔ of the film’s length, relents only once where a surreal scene pops out out of nowhere before finally reveals his real intention in a dream sequence.

Michael is a Briton, specialises in customer service, but works and lives in L.A., with a seemingly perfect marriage, he is coming to Cincinnati as a keynote speaker, but from the first glance, he is jaded, slightly sulky, and disinterested to people around him, it turns out, he is having a middle-age crisis. The hotel he stays is named Fregoli, which serves as a not-so-subtle cue if one is familiar with Fregoli delusion, aka. the delusion of doubles, is exactly what Michael is subjected to. After the initial befuddlement – for example, why the voices of all the female characters sound like a man? and visually, apart from himself, everyone else, man or woman, seems to all be designed from the very same puppet prototype, by the time we meet Lisa (Leigh), a wallflower-type self-conscious attendee who stays in the same hotel, who is the only anomaly with a different voice and appearance, which immediately captivates Michael, that’s when we will realise what is the problem of Michael, he has lost interest in everyone else in his life, that’s why they are so monotonous (all voiced by Noonan, from Michael’s wife, his old-flame to taxi driver and bellboy) and why it should be presented as a stop-motion animation, to make the mechanical repetition more overwhelming. Yet, except Lisa, whom he baptises as Anomalisa, after he invites her to his hotel room for a steamy night.

To watch lifelike puppets mimic real sex is something gives you a bizarre feeling, but things get better, after a nightmare which subconsciously convinces Michael that Lisa is the one who he has been looking for, he decides to leave his wife and start anew with Lisa. While they are discussing it heatedly during their breakfast, Michael’s subjective impression of Lisa changes, her foibles start to get on his nerves, just like that, Anomalisa suddenly is deprived of her anomaly, both visually and sonically.

At that point, Kaufman has done something extraordinary and very smart, his scalpel aims to Michael, it is not that he is looking for someone special to fulfill his otherwise boring life, as the truth turns out he is the one who is incapable of love, each time he thinks he finds the special one, which is merely driven by his libido, once he backtracks to the not-so-sexy routine life, he just loses the interest, the pathogenic reason is the erroneous prejudice of objectification women only for sexual pleasure, which in fact, is the canker of human society ever since the birth of human race. Life shouldn’t be stimulated by one’s libido, we talk the talk, then walk the walk, it enthuses great pleasure to watch a film pinpointing the scourge and credits to Kaufman and his team for accomplish it with such economy, notably the final touch with semen on the Japanese doll, a real game-changer.

Jennifer Jason Leigh, deserves a special shout-out, for her “anomalous” voice faulty which brings Lisa to life, who is both ordinary and not-ordinary, her quirkiness can either present her as a low-hanging object of desire or a vexing chatterbox, totally depends on the timing of her male companion, we only wish, Lisa turns out to be fine afterward.

Oscar 2015  Anomalisa

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