Picking up a book after you judge it’s cover can be rewarding. In the past I would also purchase a CD just because I like the cover design and it’s within a genre that I enjoy. It’s the same with movie – I knew nothing about Anomalisa except that it’s a stop-motion drama by Charlie Kaufman, the director behind Adaptation and Being John Malkovich among others. Kaufman collaborated with Duke Johnson (the artist/director responsible for the stop-motion). I’m sorry to say that I had never watched any of Kaufman‘s movies before Anomalisa, so I really didn’t know what to expect.
The story is about Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) who travels to Cincinnati, Ohio to promote his book about customer service. Michael has an unfinished business with an old flame, Bella who he left abruptly years ago. The meeting with Bella goes pear-shaped when Michael cannot explain why he left and then suddenly contacts her out of the blue. In a confused and messy state of mind, he meets Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a ‘simple’ customer service officer who is in town to attend the conference that Michael is about to speak in. It is Lisa’s voice that attracts Michael to her – and her uniqueness that seems to intrigue Michael.
Anomalisa may appear to be a simple story on face value, but it provides intriguing thoughts even after you leave the theatre. It’s a journey into loneliness and the wish to escape the mundanity of life. If you plan to see the movie, you can stop reading now as the information may spoil your enjoyment.
Still reading? Good.
Well, I’ll continue then.
In the movie, all other characters and faces are represented by a similar voice and a variation of the same face. I learned afterwards that this is a mental disorder called Fregoli delusion, in which the person believes that different people are in fact representations of one single person. In the movie it is further emphasised by naming the hotel that Michael stays in – you got it, ‘The Fregoli’. At first, I was baffled when I heard the same male voice spoken by different characters who are obviously female – however, this quickly sets the norm for the rest of the movie that when Lisa appears in the story, you know that she is different.
Despite the seemingly bizarre execution and the simple story, Anomalisa is very thought-provoking and affecting. The stop-motion is brilliant in displaying emotions and nuances that are integral to the storyline. Even when the characters have sex, you can’t help feeling a tad uncomfortable – as it is depicted as the peak of the illusion that Michael builds around Lisa. The morning after scene is both heartbreaking and sobering at the same time – and this is where I stop, as I still think you should see the movie to know what I mean.
If you’re sick of juvenile animation movies or movies that end without giving you things to digest and ponder over, you should see Anomalisa. I watched the movie on Friday, and even now I still find myself thinking about elements of the story or the movie. It’s not a surprise that it is nominated for so many awards.