Why do I like Charlie Kaufman? Mainly because he taps into my very psyche with relatable stories, he dishes up a world full of characters I have met in my own life, and situations (often dark) that are tenderly dealt with in his screenplays. Any struggle in his films are mixed with a healthy dose of fiction, something unreal, so that we are quite comfortable watching it on screen; sinking into it’s narrative but never falling too heavily into it’s unsettling gaze.
Anomalisa is a stop-motion animation, which in itself is quirky enough to make it worth the watch. It’s about an inspiration speaker Michael Stone (voiced by the highly underestimated David Thewis) who is, actually, lacking in inspiration. He travels to various cities across the US to speak to the fans of his latest book, leaving his wife and young son at home. It beomes clear that he uses his celebrity and British charm to find women en route, and in this trip to Cincinatti, he crosses paths with Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh.) They hit it off immediately, but is it already too late for Michael? Is he sinking into a state of self-pity so deep that no human contact can counteract the effects? Anomalisa dares ask the question, and proves that actually, there’s nothing more terrifying than human nature.
The animation is powerful. The faces are sensitive to mood and expressions are nuanced, making it easy for the audience to become immersed into this reality. Another stroke of absolute genius is the way that every other character in the film shares the same voice, that of Tom Noonan. It’s a clever trick; that of showing how people can merge into one ever expanding crowd, shifting and growing and getting more suffocating with each scene. Even when Michael phones home to speak to his son, the eerie voice appears. Lisa’s voice is what draws Michael from their first encounter in the hotel bar. In the bedroom, she actually proves that she has something to say that is interesting and new; her current situation a little sad, a little desperate, but the raw materials are there.
Kaufman has once again made a film that draws the audience in, aghast, but we leave the experience so much more fulfilled. A salesman effectively visits a hotel to speak to other sales people and he meets a woman in a bar, but the film is anything but benign.