Dir: Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman (2015)
The universes of Charlie Kaufman‘s masterful screenplays come loaded with dizzying layers of fiction and reality. The zany dream like quality of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind only adds to a deeply sad story of love and loss and healing. The exceptional Adaptation miraculously takes the author into it’s pages to create a wildly inventive deconstruction of the actual creative process through not one but two parts of Kaufman’s mind. And, now, 17 years after the game changing Being John Malkovich Kaufman has joined up with master animator Duke Johnson for his straightest and most real story yet there’s not a single human to be seen.
Anomalisa is a stop motion wonder set, almost entirely, over one night in a Cincinnati hotel. We’re on a plane with Michael Stone (beautifully voiced by David Thewlis); He watches another plane from the window of his own which disappears almost the moment he glimpses it; Stone, a motivational speaker on the way to a talk in the Fregoli Hotel can’t connect with anything or anyone, the scared man next to him on the flight or even another hunk of speeding metal in the sky. This is a film about connection in a mundane world and in Michael’s world everything feels boringly familiar, everyone looks and sounds the same; The excellently drab Tom Noonan even voices every other character, male or female, except for one.
When Michael meets motivational super fan Lisa (another stellar turn this year from Jennifer Jason Leigh) he sees a desperate opportunity for something wonderful, no matter how fleeting, still unable to think of anyone but himself even the exuberant girl in front of him. There’s a previous attempt at a one night stand with an ex-girlfriend in the hotel’s generic bar, a visit to a very different toy shop for the obligatory travel present for Michael’s kids and some absolutely incredible animation work.
Anomalisa is a stop motion revelation; Using the puppet’s visible flaws as a reflection of our own is brilliantly conveyed, especially in one miraculous peek behind the curtain. There are truly magnificent cinematic flourishes including long wandering steady cam shots and some glorious lighting but Anomalisa‘s total genius is in the small physical moments. The characters, slouch, smoke, shower and stare, they wait, they are deeply, deeply sad and therefore, Kaufman supposes, incredibly real; So much so that by the time the film’s much talked about (and spectacular) sex scene rolls around you’re not even sure where the line between reality and fiction begins and ends. In that, you realise Kaufman has done it again. This is fantastic unique film making which needs to be connected with, no matter what.