Genre: Stop Motion/Drama
Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, David Thewlis
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Rating: R21 (Sexual Scene and Nudity)
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.anomalisa.com
Opening Day: 18 February 2016
Synopsis: A man struggles with his inability to connect with other people.
As masterful as it is, Anomalisa is not one of the easiest movies to watch.
Don’t get me wrong, despite the no-holds-barred approach, the film isn’t in any way, overly offensive. It’s precisely because Anomalisa is such an honest depiction of life and how it can be so robotic and meaningless that it can be scary to watch. You may find yourself relating all too easily to Michael Stone’s seemingly successful jetsetting life as a motivational speaker/customer service guru is a mere guise for a mundane and going-through-the-motions life. Because that can be your life too, especially in our success-driven society where the measure of the success and the degree to which your life is deemed meaningful is tied to how well you conform to the expected phases in life – get a degree, get a well-paying white-collared job, get married, have kids etc etc. Michael’s groupies gush at how ‘cute’ he looks, how intelligent he is but he is living a lie where he urges those in customer service to treat all customers as unique individuals and as “humans” but confesses to not knowing what being human, with all the emotions and aches, means.
Of course, given Charlie Kaufman, the maestro behind such quirky yet deeply thought-provoking movies such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, you can’t expect him to simply just have Michael Stone’s successful yet meaningless life play out in a conventional (and dare I say boring?) way. Kaufman lives up to expectations and chooses to have Michael’s story unfold via stop-motion animation. Except you easily forget given how life-like the two lead puppet characters, Michael and Lisa, are. Not only do their expressions and voices have twitches and inflections that are typical of normal human beings, they are photorealistic puppets who have the same physical flaws (facial scars, slightly protruding stomachs) as well as insecurities as you and I.
Treatment of the storytelling aside, the story is made more intriguing by the fact that everyone around Michael (save for Lisa) have exactly the same face and same voice regardless of gender, age or ethnicity. The only way you can tell them apart is by their height, gait, hairstyle and overall physique.
The name of the hotel, Fregoli, hints at Michael suffering from some kind of disorder (go search for Fregoli disorder) and the encounter that he has with the hotel general manager reinforces that belief. However, there are hints that Michael’s own behaviour may be a catalyst, if not impetus, for this strange situation he finds himself in. Although Lisa is initially seen as a ray of hope for him to put himself out of this situation, when his pure unadulterated admiration of her very existence in his life gives way to his desire for her to conform to his standards and his wants, she literally starts to become just like everyone else- bearing the same face and the same voice. Michael’s world and reality may very well be an extreme manifestation of solipsism. His sense of ennui stems from the lack of literal variety in the people in his life and his inability to see them as individuals with whom he can build real bonds. Yet he hungers for real human relationships where he can view them as unique individuals but the irony is that the real cause of his inability to see them as individuals could very well be him, rendering him unable to break out of this horrible world that he may have trapped himself in.
(If you like a philosophical and no-holds-barred look at life, then you’ll love Anomalisa)
Review by Katrina Tee