Directors: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Screenwriter: Charlie Kaufman
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Runtime: 90 mins.
Australian release date: 4 February 2016
Anomalisa is like nothing you have seen before.
Using stop-motion puppetry the directors, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson examine the quotidian dullness of everyday existence with a sharp, laser-like objectivity, yet it is a view that is oddly sympathetic to the human condition as well. There, but for the grace of God, go all of us, you could say!
Kaufman’s script puts us in the head of the successful, married, author of a book on customer service relations, Michael Stone (David Thewlis), whose life is one of total banality. At a conference in Cincinnati, during an eventful evening he meets one of the conference attendees, customer service representative Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and they end up spending the night together. Michael senses that there is something special about this woman, that maybe she can dispel the ennui that overwhelms him and so, in a particularly tender scene, we witness a love-making act which somehow seems more realistic and natural than most on-screen coupling featuring live actors. According to Leigh the scene took six months to shoot and three days to voice-over and it’s easy to understand why.
The dialogue between the two exposes their fragile mental health states, which are exacerbated by their all-encompassing loneliness but, as their hours together increase, Michael’s problems arise again and he finds he just can’t cope with the ‘reality’ of this relationship. Cleverly, all the other characters in Michael’s world are voiced by the same actor, Tom Noonan, a clear indication of just how cut off from society Michael feels. Thus it’s not only the animation that takes you to another dimension, but also its content. It really does take you into another realm of being and gives you another way of seeing the ‘everyday’.
Anomalisa is up for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars this year and it will be very interesting to see how it fares. It really should have been nominated in the Best Film and Best Script categories. The stop-motion puppetry is fascinating and if originality, coupled with a sense of surrealism, are considered, then this film is a winner. You’ll spend a long time thinking about it after you leave the screening. It is intriguing from start to finish and worthy of much discussion.