Charlie Kaufman’s “Anomalisa,” which expands into more theaters on Jan. 15, is one of the more unique features about how one sees the world around them. Of course, what else could you expect from Kaufman, the great mind behind “Adaptation”; “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”; and “Being John Malkovich.” Done completely in stop-motion animation, “Anomolisa” is poignant, odd, and humorous. It’s a pure joy to watch it all unfold.
There’s a lot to take in as one watches “Anomalisa.” Presented is a story of a man named Michael Stone (David Thewlis), who sees the world around him as strange and uncomfortable. And yet, he’s a motivational speaker making his way to Cincinnati, Ohio, to promote his latest book to a room full of customer service professionals. Everyone he comes in contact with all look and sound the same.
Most interactions he has all result in some form of awkwardness, whether it be the hotel concierge staring at him for a long period of time or when an encounter with a CEO gets a little too personal. One day, he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is different from the rest of the people he sees in the world. She’s a sales rep from Akron, and is also Michael’s biggest fan. She sees herself as unlikable; he sees her as perfect. And she might be what he needs to make his life better.
But “Anomalisa” is not your typical meet cute story. Don’t go into this and expect you know exactly what’s going to happen – because you don’t. Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson go deeper into the psychology of Michael. On the outside, he may be an example of success. But, beyond the book and the speeches, he’s in dire need of a change. He feels alone, even though he’s married and has a kid at home in Los Angeles. Nothing in his life seems as exciting as one would expect.
“Anomalisa” is comprised of only three voice actors. Aside from Leigh and Thewlis, both of whom are perfect, Tom Noonan provides the voice of every other character whom Michael meets. Men, women, children – Noonan voices them all. And he’s incredible at it.
This is a film that perfectly captures the feeling of being alone, and being surrounded by people who all may look and sound the same to you, even if they are people you may know. It’s short in length, but “Anomalisa” fills that time with some remarkable animation, and moments that are hysterical and also heartbreaking. It’s the most magical and original film to come out in years. There has never been, and probably never will be, another film like it.