HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:74
Charlie Kaufman has been out of the limelight for over 12 years, with the last feature film he directed being “Syndicate New York”, and his last major film writing event being “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (a fantastic film in and of itself). So color me more than a bit eager to check out “Anomalisa”, a strange little film that pits two emotionally scarred people up against each other. A film that digs deep into the psyche and starts to unravel a short burst of clarity in a man that has struggled to find meaning in this life for so very long. He is a man that has made a living helping people as a customer service guru, but someone who can’t seem to help himself. His counterpart Lisa is a lively girl who has her own issues, with her scarring being both internal and external, and just as sadly, she can’t help (or won’t help) herself either. That is until the two of them meet one fateful evening.
Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a customer service guru who has made his living writing books on how to run a more efficient ship and how to treat people properly. In fact his books are so prolific that he is holding a conference in Cincinnati where customer service reps and managers all over the country are coming to hear him speak. The problem stems from the fact that Michael is a very isolated man. He suffers from a condition known as Fregoli Delusion in which he mistakenly believes that everyone around him is actually the same person. Even though the film never specifically comes out and labels it thus, the audience is clued into the fact due to every single person in the movie other than Michael is voiced by the same actor. We’re hearing from Michael’s ears what he hears, and his lack of ability to distinguish one person from the other as a result. It’s not as crippling as it may be for some rare cases where a person cannot function in society, but it has created an isolated barrier for Michael over the years, resulting in a failed previous marriage and one that is on the rocks at this time and place.
Stumbling around the hotel in his bleak and mundane existence, Michael stumbles on a single bright spot. A moment of clarity so to speak, in his grey world. Accidentally meeting a pair of customer service reps that are going to his conference, Michael forms a bond one of them. A girl named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who is equally attracted to him. This of course results in a slightly tumultuous affair for the night but that little interaction is doomed to fail as well. Both he and Lisa are so very similar, yet so very different at the same time. He is emotionally damaged and isolated from the world with a plethora of internal scarring, while she is just as scarred as he is, but in a more submissive way. The instant bond between the two allows for a light to spark in Michael, one that gives him a moment of hope. As if his existence has some sort of meaning among all this mediocrity that is his life.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=71897[/img]It’s an interesting juxtaposition watching the two of them interact. He is a man who sees everything the same way, but somehow can hear her voice distinctly, and see her face without seeing the same one over and over again. She is a person defined by her physical scars that she carries and while she is a bouncy and playful person, also has a self-degrading attitude that Michael slowly coaches her out of. The two of them find something in each other and their own perceptions about the other shape how their view is to the other person, thus allowing a sort of cathartic healing to happen. It’s brutal, and it’s rough at times, but “Anomalisa” was never billed as kids comedy and Charlie Kaufman’s surrealistic form of storytelling is perfect for a tale about someone who has problems with perceiving reality.
The ability to use stop motion cinematography and puppets allow for a strange, yet appealing way to tell the story. The hints and physical queues about the masks people wear are so much easier to depict with the chattering jaw that Michael seems to be fighting as well as just watching the film for the animated masterpiece that it is. The film is able to use 3D printing technology to create puppets that are given the guise of stop motion to allow them to become the realistic physical “cartoon” ever created (as well as give the movie a strange “acid trip” taste that only Kaufman could think up). The detail given to the puppets is extreme, with individual fibers on the coat and physical structures taking on a life of their own.
Rated R for strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=71905[/img]Kaufman’s use of 3D printing to create the individual puppets and manipulate with stop motion makes for some incredibly detailed work, with wonderful and intimate recreation of everything from the fibers on Michael’s jacket, to the lining around the puppets mask like face. Blacks are good, if not a bit washed out sometimes and colors lean more towards the natural state of being, with slightly muted saturation levels. The skin tones look a bit warm, with a ruddy complexion given to the dolls faces and hands, but textures and clothing are softer and show some good primaries. Clarity is excellent at times, but there is also a sort of glossy and Vaseline like softness applied to the image as well (which replicates what I saw in the theater as well, so definitely a stylistic choice or one used to try and blend the puppets in with the rest of the animation, I can’t be sure).
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=71913[/img]“Anomalisa’s” 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is a bit on the underwhelming side, with a rather pedestrian and laid back mix. Dialog is crisp and clean, with Tom Noonan’s voice coming in quite crisp and clear, with David’s British accent perfectly intelligible. Background noises are just that, stuck in the background with not much to as the real focus is listening to the vocals. There’s some soft music in the elevator as well as a few moments of intense bass as Michael starts hearing a voice that is different, but other than that it’s a VERY simplistic sound design that doesn’t really ask much of the speakers. There is nothing WRONG with the track, and there are no flaws that I could hear in the encoding, it’s just that it was not asked to do very much.
• None of Them Are You: Crafting Anomalisa
• Intimacy in Miniature
• The Sound of Unease
“Anomalisa” is a not a happy story, and DEFINITELY not an animated film for kids in the slightest. It takes a very adult theme of associative disorder and blends it with the very relatable feeling of isolation and mundane existence that so many people struggle with on a day to day basis and turns it into a movie that can only be described as “clinical” in nature. The plot has enough layers and depth in it to delve into the psyche of Michael enough to give someone enough material for a thesis paper, and does really well with repeat viewings. It’s almost melodic and hypnotic as much as it is sad and slightly depressing at the same time. The fantastic leaps in technology that made the movie so lifelike is incredible to view on the projector and while the audio and video are not as perfect as I would have hoped for, the 30 minute making of the movie is incredibly informative and one of the best behind the scenes featurettes I’ve seen in some time. Definitely recommended
Starring: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Directed by: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman
Written by: Charlie Kaufman
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Runtime: 91 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: June 7th, 2016
Buy Anomalisa Blu-ray on Amazon
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