I’m convinced that with Anomalisa, writer Charlie Kaufman came up with what he thought was a really good title and then wrote a screenplay around it. I’m not going to judge him for that, my book ‘Quantum Phillips’ is going to be great as soon as can I think of a story, but the name is the cleverest thing about this film..
The central idea is smart enough. There’s a man who is so numb to the world that everyone around him literally appears to be the same as everyone else. Then he meets a woman called Lisa who is different, unexpected, peculiar, anomalous even. It’s just that previously Kaufman’s concepts have been truly brilliant. A portal that leads into the head of John Malkovich, an book adaptation that is actually all about adapting a book, the creation of a live size replica of New York inside a warehouse, surgically erasing people from your memory. These are all totally original ideas. The conceit of Anomalisa doesn’t match them.
In the end it is the way the movie is made that makes it stand out. As a live action film this would have little to offer but as a stop motion animation it is something different. For me though it is a curio and I have to say that with all the effort that must have gone in to shooting it frame by frame, it wasn’t worth it. Yes, it is fairly interesting and darkly amusing in places but it would have worked better as a short. An hour and a half is just too long to spend in this company.
The problem is that the protagonist, Michael Stone, is an egocentric, objectionable creep. For the first thirty to forty minutes we follow this guy as he tries desperately to connect with those around him when a good start would be to be nice to people. His total contempt for everyone, including himself, is wearing. The relationship he then builds with the Lisa character is discomforting, where I believe it was supposed to be touching, because she is so clearly vulnerable and he is such a parasitic louse. It’s possible the audience is supposed to feel sorry for him but he doesn’t deserve to be indulged. I got no pleasure from seeing his moment of happiness because of what his selfish actions cost others.
It may be ‘an honest movie’, ‘an examination of individuality’ and ‘a complex marvel’ as the poster quotes suggest but I didn’t find it rewarding beyond the interesting quirks in the animation. Take that away and there is very little left. Apparently it was first performed as a dramatic read through and frankly, that must have been really dull.
The Ripley Factor:
Lisa is the bright point in this movie. She is realistic, especially considering she is made of plastic and wire, and genuine and she does seem to be operating on her own terms despite her fragility.
Is this one for the kids?
With forty uses of the F word, indications of masturbation, sex toys and full frontal puppet nudity, I’d say no – this is not one for the kids! This is not aimed at the medium’s usual audience. It’s not Wallace and Gromit.