Anomalisa is a paradox: it is possibly the most accurate interpretation of human behaviour on film that i have seen despite the fact that their are no actors on screen, in fact its surrealist aspects make it in ways a terrifying spectacle of how a depressed and bitter man sees the world around him.
Once again Charlie Kaufman has delivered a fascinating look at the human condition, rivalling that of screenplays such as ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. Kaufman is know for his quirks and his ability to make absurd ideas work in a compelling and relatable way but Anomalisa is his first full length animation and this poses problems -animation is know for bringing forth surreal ideas in a commercial form. Cleverly, Kaufman has manipulated the genre, using it as a metaphor for his protagonists sense of paranoia and manipulation. He truly feels as if every move in his life had been planned out. He feels almost like a stop motion puppet..
At several points I sympathised deeply with self-help author Michael Stone (David Thewlis), who saw everyone around him as the same, yet as the film progresses it becomes clear that in many ways he himself is the problem – a miserable man fed up with life and unwilling to let himself feel any happiness even when it comes to him with open arms. Regardless, Michaels behaviour was eerily accurate to my own, the subtle things like opening the toilet with his foot caused me to become increasingly disturbed as i began to imagine myself as this man, alone in a world of clones. The one exception to his curse, played beautifully by Jennifer Jason Leigh, becomes a point of fascination to Michael but i feel he treats her shamefully; giving this shy young girl a glimpse of passion and confidence before throwing her away like a new toy. There is something truly off putting about Tom Noonans voice in this film, somehow he plays numerous characters with the same voice and the same face yet each feels distinct, capturing the essence of the frustrated wife, spoilt child and annoying concierge with ease and adding to the brilliant interpretation of Michaels insecurities; creating realism in a wholly surrealistic idea (a talent of Kaufmans). One scene that merits special mention involves a haunting rendition of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to have Fun’, adding a new depth of pity for both our primary characters.
Anomalisa is also aesthetically beautiful, the simplistic cinematography and realistic lighting creates an extremely accurate to life stop motion film but Kaufman makes clear decisions in the puppets design to remind us that none of what is happening is real – the lines of the faceplates are left untouched to clearly differentiate this from reality and allow several disturbing sequences that convey Michaels increasing fears.
I have little to criticise about this masterpiece in adult orientated animation, while the ending may be abrupt and in ways anti-climactic, i think it is fitting for Michael to return to the monotony of his home life – the hotel a bitter memory; his chance for love extinguished by his own paranoia.