Saturday, September 09, 2017


Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson and written by Kaufman that is based on his own play under the pseudonym Francis Fregoli, Anomalisa is the story of a lonely man who meets a woman at a hotel in Cincinnati prompting him to realize not everyone is identical to him. Presented in a stop-motion animated film, the film is an exploration of a world where everyone is the same as a man copes with that sense of loneliness in his life. Featuring the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan. Anomalisa is a mesmerizing yet evocative film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson.

The film revolves around a man who is arriving to Cincinnati for a conference he’s holding on customer service as he copes with his loneliness and the decisions he’s made in his life as he meets a woman he would fall for. It takes place in the span of 24 hours as this man is dealing with the fact that he is probably one of the few who feels different as everyone else around sounds or look the same. Charlie Kaufman’s screenplay is filled with a lot of dialogue that play into the internal and emotional crisis that the film’s protagonist in Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is going through. Many of the people he encounter all kind of have the same face in some ways and all with the same voice in different ways as he also copes with the fact that he still carries a letter from a former lover who lives in the city.

When he encounters a woman named Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), Stone begins to feel more upbeat as well as open himself to Lisa who is quite insecure herself as she is in the city with a friend to attend Stone’s conference. The two would have a drink with Lisa’s friend Emily as it would lead to Stone’s fascination with Lisa as it is clear they have a lot in common. Notably as they’re two people unhappy in their life as Kaufman’s script doesn’t really have much of a plot in favor of exploring these characters who both don’t feel like they fit in with anyone.

The direction of Kaufman and Duke Johnson is definitely entrancing for the way they present the film in this form of stop-motion animation in the way the characters look as well as the world they’re in. With the help of animation director Dan Driscoll, the film’s direction would have Kaufman and Johnson create some unique camera movements as well as some tracking shots for some long takes in some scenes though the camera has to move one frame at a time as it relates to form of stop-motion animation. There are also some unique compositions with the usage of the wide and medium shots in the way Kaufman and Johnson would film the conversations. Part of the animation’s look of the characters are reminiscent of the art of puppetry as there’s outlines of the character’s faces in the eyes and jaws so that they can move their body parts while they talk or display some form of emotional expression. 

There are also moments in the film where the animation takes some risk such as a sex scene between Michael and Lisa as it does have a lot of emotional weight. Even as it play into the former’s need to find himself and what he wants in life as it would culminate with this conference that would be the catalyst for the anguish he’s dealing with in his life. Overall, Kaufman and Johnson create a compelling and riveting film about a man dealing with an existential crisis while meeting another lost woman at a hotel in Cincinnati.

Cinematographer Joe Passarelli does brilliant work with the cinematography from the way all of the interiors are lit as well as how the exterior settings are presented in the lighting. Editor Garret Elkins does excellent work with the editing as it is quite straightforward to play into the drama and bits of humor while there are a few stylish cuts for a surreal sequence late in the film. Production designers John Joyce and Huy Vu do amazing work with the look of the hotel halls, the hotel rooms, and other places including some of the exteriors of the city. Costume designer Susan Donym does fantastic work with the look of the clothes and how they would move as well as play into the personality of the characters.

Visual effects supervisors Billy Brooks, Culley Bunker, Stuart Cripps, and Derek Smith do terrific work with the visual effects which is essentially a bit of set-dressing as well as a key moment in a surreal sequence. Sound editors Christopher S. Aud and Aaron Glascock do superb work with the sound as it captures some of the atmosphere of the hotel bars, the conference room, and other sound effects that was created for the film. The film’s music by Carter Burwell is wonderful as it is this very low-key score with its somber orchestral score and jazz-like music to play into some of the dramatic moments of the film where there is also an original song in the film sung by Tom Noonan as well as a cover of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun sung by Jennifer Jason Leigh.

The film’s cast mainly consists of three actors with Tom Noonan providing the voice for pretty much all of the characters with the exception of the two protagonists as he provides a variation of voices the many characters in the film as if they’re all the same. The voice performances of Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Thewlis in their respective roles as Lisa Hesselman and Michael Stone are incredible as they both provide the sense of loneliness and despair into their roles with Leigh being very lively in her voice role with Thewlis in a more dry and cynical approach that would loosen up as the story progresses.

Anomalisa is a phenomenal film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. It’s a film that doesn’t play by the rules while showcasing that animated films can explore adult subject matters as well as be racy. Even as it’s a film that is quite complex and dares to ask big questions about life and what it means to live. In the end, Anomalisa is a spectacular film from Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson.

Related: Synecdoche, New York

© thevoid99 2017


Anonymous said...

I was so enchanted by this one at TIFF last year.
I really love stop motion, and this one was no exception - so many lovingly hand-crafted details to appreciate!

thevoid99 said... is a great feat in cinema and I do love the way the characters look and the attention to detail in the rooms and such. Stop-motion animation has something many animated films lack as it's indescribable to say something about it.