Whether you’re at the airport or stuck in traffic on the way to work or in a crowded restaurant, you’re the star of the movie of your life.
You might have a co-star in the form of your significant other, and supporting players a.k.a. your co-workers and your boss and your friends, and there’s an endless supply of extras, i.e., all those people contributing background noise and visual stimuli as you navigate every minute of your life.
The disturbingly brilliant Anomalisa is directed and co-written by Charlie Kaufman, the screenwriter of Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. And, in its modest way, his latest film is as surreal, ingenious, heartbreaking and hilarious as either of them.
This is a movie about that I’m-in-my-own-movie feeling (among many other things). And even though it is a highly stylized, stop-motion animation film featuring puppet-like human characters, it is a pinpoint-accurate encapsulation of some of the most banal AND some of the most exhilarating moments virtually all of us have experienced at some point in our lives.
An unsettling commentary on loneliness, depression and the ease with which we can fall in and out of love, Anomalisa uses stop-motion animation to tell the strange tale of Michael (David Thewlis), a customer-service guru who is so sick of the human race that, to him, everybody sounds as if they have the same voice (Tom Noonan’s voice, to be precise). The one exception is Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a fan he meets in a Cincinnati hotel.
Anomalisa was written as a play to be performed by three actors on a bare stage, and yet the animated figurines are so integral to its mood and themes that it’s hard to imagine it any other way. Anomalisa has more heart, soul and pathos than 99.9% of live-action movies have to offer.