ANOMALISA marks the brilliant return of Charlie Kaufman to the silver screen, but before we get any further, let us just say that this is a strange film which may not please everyone, as it is a bit esoteric in its conception and how it is played out.
The story is filmed in stop-motion animation and is about Michael Stone (David Thewlis), husband, father and respected author of How May I Help You Help Them? He is a man crippled by the mundanity of his life. On a business trip to Cincinnati, where he's scheduled to speak at a convention of customer service professionals, Michael checks into the Fregoli Hotel and meets Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a socially awkward sales rep from Akron who may or may not be the love of his life. Charlie Kaufman (writer, BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ADAPTATION, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THESPOTLESS MIND, director SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK) and Duke Johnson create a darkly comedic and surreal stop-motion journey into the mind of a man whose dark night of the soul becomes a Kafkaesque make that Kaufmanesque - nightmare.
Some strange anomalies in this latest Kaufman feature include giving all the female characters the same looking face and all the other characters (excluding one, Lisa) the same voice for reasons that are never explained, but we can assume that maybe it adds to the loneliness of Michael in a world that he perceives is full of banality. Subsequently, there are only three actors voicing all the characters, David Thewliss, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan, which is pretty surreal, but mesmerizing to watch and jolts your brain into figuring out how Michael Stone feels in his own mixed up world. These three voices are distinctive enough to give you that sense of separation between Michael, Lisa and the ‘rest of the world’, but it is strangely unsettling at the beginning, before you begin to realize what Kaufman wants to create and what would to come next.
Kaufman had based this film on a play he wrote in 2005, his creation is rather intense and bears all his hallmarks that we have come to love in his previous films. Being nominated for an Academy Award for Best animated Feature, a Golden Globe for best Anumated Feature Film, and five Annie Awards. It became the first animated film to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, after premiering at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2015. The majority of the film is set in a hotel, so the story plays out some strange events and happenings that don’t always make sense initially, but you will get the picture eventually. While it personally was not our ‘cup of tea’, it is a film worth watching to get inside the mind of Charlie Kaufman again and immerse yourselves in the world of Michael Stone especially through his voice of sorrows and joy as well as excitement.