Michael Stone is a business man, author, husband, father, inspirational speaker, adulterer, and madman. While on another business trip to promote his customer service oriented self-help book, “How May I Help You Help Them?” Michael is surrounded by the same faces and voices. Living his life in utter boredom and mundanity he attempts to rile up some kind emotion or passion by reaching out to an ex-girlfriend he wronged 10 years ago. After his first attempt of connection crashes and burns you get a sense that something might actually be wrong with Michael himself. He continues on his evening by taking advantage of a naïve fan with horribly low self-esteem, named Lisa. Michael thinks he’s found his soulmate because she is a true anomaly in his routine existence until she too fades away into the abyss of his mental disarray.
First, this film is animated. Unnecessarily animated. Anomalisa was albeit excruciatingly slow at times, still managed to throw in interesting twists but did not need to be animated in any way. The stop-motion animation was beautifully mastered and well done but confusing to the audience. When viewers watch animated or stop-motion films they tend to have a childish or light-hearted nature because they are mostly G-rated. Anomalisa is an obvious adult film with adult themes, nudity, a ton of “f-bombs,” and even a sex scene. Michael, voiced by David Thewlis, visits a sex toy shop and buys something for his young son, which is so painfully awkward by the way. This film would have been much more enjoyable as live-action, but for the effect the directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson were trying to portray I can understand and forgive the stop-motion puppetry.
Every face and voice in the film besides Lisa, voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Michael are literally the same, which starts out confusing. Are we the viewers crazy or is this foreshadowing? The first half of the film the audience struggles with the similarities but then it becomes apparent that we are seeing the world through Michael’s point of view. The plot-line is mystifyingly frustrating to follow because the story moves at a snail’s pace. The audience grew bored with Michael just as quickly as it was apparent how boring Michael’s life is to his own self. Even some patrons in the theater during the screening left within the first half hour of the film. The voice acting was done well mostly due to the fact that there were only three voices and everyone else in the film had the same monotone cadence that drilled home the dullness of Michael’s existence.
Besides the sluggish story and non-climactic end the real intrigue of the film was the aesthetics and beauty of the images on the screen. It was a train wreck you just cannot look away from because of the sheer graphicness, but in an awestricken stunning way. Michael and Lisa’s faces had details only a true artist could master. The artistic edge for me outweighed the perplexing story. My eyes hungered for more of the tiny details and minute movements that seamlessly blended into the next. It was astounding how captivating the animation was and so I forgive its unnecessary use because it was executed flawlessly.
This film was interesting to say the least. Would I go again or suggest others to pay movie theater price to see? Probably not. Instead I suggest you wait for it to come out for rental but do not watch it with children. Do watch it with an open mind but not high expectations.
Anomalisa has a 90 minute runtime.
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