If Lost in Translation was animated…
A good bye kiss rather than wedding bliss, moonlight instead of sunshine and that one black rose in a sea of red. Undoubtedly there is a tinge of sadness and a hint of melancholy in all of his films, yet Charlie Kaufman’s are no less beautiful. While other film makers like to strap rose tinted glasses to our faces, Kaufman instead tries to open the door to our hearts and allow his characters to tentatively step through them.
Sure his films at times can seem absurd or perplexing, especially in the case of Synecdoche New York – a metaphysical nightmare. But that’s the beauty of Kaufman’s astounding body of work, it inspires you to think and feel more profoundly and differently than ever before and Kaufman’s latest is yet another perfectly weird and sombre gem. Even though it is entirely animated, Anomalisa is infused with more warmth, pathos and humanity than most of Hollywood’s usual mechanical, box office pandering handouts!
Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a customer service expert on a business trip to Cincinnati, Ohio to give a talk and pedal his latest book on the subject. However, bizarrely it quickly becomes abundantly clear that everyone Michael encounters looks alike and sounds hauntingly the same, even the wife and kids he begrudgingly talks to on the phone. Not only does Michael sound different (he had a British accent), but his entire being doesn’t quite seem to fit into his surroundings; he is a lost soul cast adrift in the world.
Feeling painfully lonely, Stone desperately tries to rekindle a long ago smouldered relationship from the past by inviting to dinner his ex-girlfriend, Bella. Suffice to say, things don’t go as well as he hoped and Bella leaves the hotel restaurant disgusted and fuming; Stone wasn’t looking for a trip down memory lane after all, his intentions were purely sexual.
After a shower and looking wistfully at his reflection in a fogged up mirror, Stone’s ears suddenly perk up to a voice he has never heard before. With the urgency as if the world was ending, Stone haphazardly puts his clothes on and careens down the hotel corridor in search of this distinctive sound. Eventually he stumbles upon Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), sweet, tentative and incredibly insecure – she has a scar that she desperately tries to hide behind a flop of hair. However, Stone couldn’t care less about Lisa’s imperfections; he is captivated by her uniqueness.
Why does everyone in the film look and sound the same?
If you expect clear cut endings to your films, then sadly you have stumbled into the wrong theatre. Anomalisa offers no resolutions, no answers and certainly no happy endings; instead Kaufman offers cold hard reality, in life you get none of the above.
If Oscars were handed out to voice actors (like they should!) then David Thewlis should have been going home with the statue (sorry Leo). His work on Anomalisa was absolutely astounding, his voice carried me through a subtle roller coaster of emotion. Really early on, Stones stopped being a mere puppet, rather he was a real life human being of flesh and blood.
Team America, South Park and Family Guy, adult animation is usually meet with vulgarity, one dimensional characters and absurd storylines. Gentle, honest and bittersweet; Anomalisa is an anomaly amongst the crowd. Anomalisa shows you that beyond the jokes and pixels, sometimes animation can conjure the most realistic portrait of humanity.