David Thewlis voices Michael Stone, a middle-aged businessman travelling to Cincinnati for a conference. Charlie Kaufman always likes to innovate with his films and here he (along with co-director Duke Johnson) shoots the whole film in stop-motion.
The end result is a film in which every single detail has been thought about and deliberately included. Every drop of rain on a car window was placed there because it was meant to be. The tiniest of incidental noises is there by design. Anomalisa is a work of art in the truest sense that there was a blank canvas, then there was a whole world on screen. Somehow Kaufman makes it beautiful and almost tangible.
Ironically our protagonist doesn’t see the world that way at all. Michael struggles with the every day annoyances of life; the overly keen taxi drivers & the soulless hotel staff wear him down. As things progress we quickly realise that everyone has the same voice (Tom Noonan) and face, and that Michael’s take on the world is tragically skewed. When he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) she immediately stands out and he falls for her head over heels.
Anomalisa carries Kaufman’s typical sense of humour, it’s funny but always tinged with sadness. This comes to a… ahem… head with the best puppet sex scene since Team America. The same can be said for the romantic aspects of the story. The relationship between Michael and Lisa is touching but we are always reminded of how awkward and, ultimately, depressed he is.
Mental illness is a central theme. The name of the hotel, The Fregoli, alludes to the Fregoli Delusion, a mental disorder in which everyone appears to be a familiar, identical person. In Michael’s world, only Lisa cuts through the monotony.
This isn’t an overly ambitious film but nevertheless it makes its mark. Anomalisa is a beautiful and heartfelt piece of work I cannot wait to come back to.