Anomalisa

Film, Animation
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Anomalisa

Charlie Kaufman delivers another downbeat masterpiece with his stop-motion animated tale about a lonely motivational speaker

‘Anomalisa’ is an animation about a lonely man on a business trip written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, the writer of ‘Adaptation’, ‘Being John Malkovich’ and ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. Like all of Kaufman’s films, which tend to play like Woody Allen movies on hallucinogens, it gives us a man in crisis and invites us to enjoy or recoil from his fantasies – or both. Here, the stop-motion puppetry adds new wonder: soft, fluid, realistic with just a hint of strangeness, meaning that you can see the joins in characters’ faces like they’re wearing masks.

Michael Stone (the voice of David Thewlis) arrives in Cincinnati, Ohio to give a speech at a conference of customer-service workers. Kaufman indulges banalities: catching a taxi, checking in, ordering room service, a fractured call home to the wife and kid. But, as in all Kaufman’s films, somewhere we leave behind reality and enter the world of Michael’s mind. Or at least we experience a mix of the two that’s impossible or even unnecessary to unpick.

Once unpacked, Michael has a nightmare drink at the bar with his troubled ex, Bella, who he telephones out of the blue. He drinks. He wonders if he’s cracking up. He wanders into a sex shop. Back at the hotel, he strikes up an out-of-character rapport with a pair of women in town for his talk and spends the night with shy, adoring Lisa (the voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh; every other voice in the film is performed by one actor, Tom Noonan). It’s a blissful island in a sea of troubles. It leads to an astonishingly truthful sex scene – so truthful that maybe only puppets could perform it?

Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson quietly probe the biggies: happiness, disappointment, love, living with other people, mentally hanging on to everyday life by its threads. It’s what you imagine might have happened if Kaufman had got his hands on ‘Up in the Air’ or ‘Lost in Translation’. (Perhaps a creepy mechanical Japanese sex doll is a nod to the latter; certainly Kaufman kicks the self-satisfied stuffing out of the former.) It’s both soaringly romantic and truly sad. Considering the labyrinthine plotting of Kaufman’s ‘Synecdoche, New York’, his only other film as a writer-director, this is also strikingly simple. But it’s no less majestic, imaginative or moving.

By: Dave Calhoun

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Release details

Release date: Friday March 11 2016
Duration: 90 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Screenwriter: Charlie Kaufman

1 cinema showing 'Anomalisa'

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Average User Rating

3.4 / 5

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LiveReviews|7
2 people listening
mangolisa
tastemaker

this is a very adult film. Kaufman delivers the dark side of a selfish, cruel, paranoid and confused man who suffers from the Fregoli delusion without sentimentality or apology. it is very stark without being mean spirited. there are a lot of pop culture references - especially with Cyndi Lauper's girls Just Wanna Have Fun which refers to Lisa's view of life and how she is able to keep enjoying her life and being despite the fact that it is usually her friend who gets the attention.


It exposes us to the *groupie* culture and the desire for self improvement by referring to Lisa's story of how they splashed out to stay in the hotel and to make the trip to attend Michael's talk.


For Michael, it was almost as if he was stuck in the loop of recurring events/reincarnation. a Nietzsche reference perhaps in which he sees the same things keep happening and he needed to escape and there is not one other but the entire universe forming as a oneness against him.


I was really looking forward to this film and there were so many moments in the film that left me smiling and laughing, remembering the same clumsiness and awkwardness in similar events...


People keep referring to it as a *puppet* film and it is. But it is more real and more human than a lot of the *human* films that I have seen. It also makes you question which one is real and which one is make believe? Which oen is natural? Lisa having an english-japanese dictionary? Or the fact that Michael was so out of place as a father, he bought his child a sex toy as a souvenir? OR are all the dolls in real life sexualised?


Watch Anomalisa and maybe you have more questions about your own life and world


John C
tastemaker

A puppet show for grown ups ? It's very clever & it's interesting for a while. A  bit like a fast food meal, it's OK at the time - but it leaves you feeling hungry for the real thing.

Sarah G
Tastemaker

As part of our day off to celebrate my partner's birthday we popped along to Clapham Picturehouse. Tuesday is cheap day! So with our membership and 2/1 meerkat it was £5 for the both us - result!


My partner described Anomalisa as the most depressing film he had ever seen - about the emptiness of human life. I found it less bleak. Artistically it's amazing and I'd love to know much more about it's development - was it always intended to be an animation - if so why, why the particular form etc etc.


I think the film is worth seeing just because of the amazing visual feat it is. The story and comment on individual self worth and human relationships will probably hit different people in different ways. It definitely won't be everyone's thing - and it is quite ambiguous. Overall I would say it is very thought provoking and its unusual form makes it very memorable.


Tom H

What a cynical, mean-spirited film this is. Charlie Kaufman adopts a sneering attitude to his characters and the audience is invited to do the same, laughing as they bumble around, have meaningless sex and misunderstand each other. The animation is decent but nothing special, and the film's perfunctory flight of fantasy goes nowhere interesting. The key message seems to be that Kaufman is smarter and wiser and more insightful than you.

MillieMollyMoo
Tastemaker

This brilliant tale of normalcy is a great watch. I was lucky enough go to a special screening this week with an introduction by the directors and the producer at The Curzon in Soho. I had no clue about this film as this was the doing of my boyfriend gaining an invite due to his donation to the project on Kickstarter. This is a quirky tale of a man in mid life crisis in his own self loathing and all trapped in his ego and self deprecation. One night he encounters and pursues Lisa,the answer to his dreams...surely? 


The tale tackles a very human moment and told in the most beautiful and odd of ways. In stop motion with dolls,bits of 3D printing,is born a brilliant and compelling film. 


It's not here to give you an exciting story or will it give the satisfaction of a happy ending but it makes you think and objectify whilst enjoying the sheer joy of the piece.


For fan of Kaufman,you will not be disappointed with echos of Eternal Sunshine and Malkovitch,but also something entirely unique and a worthy addition to his catalog of films.