Anomalisa Review: A Vibrant, Original Meditation on Human Existence

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There’s not a more human piece of filmmaking this year than Anomalisa. Rich with style and originality, Charlie Kaufman’s animated, genreless art piece is one of the best efforts at portraying true human emotion in 2015.

The first trial Kaufman has to overcome is justifying the film’s animation, which makes gorgeous use of stop-motion and puppetry. It becomes immediately apparent why the choice was made and the film only continues to use its unique style in creative ways that make it inherently necessary for this story.

Anomalisa is the story of Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) and his individuality. From his perspective, every human being sounds the same (all voiced by character actor Tom Noonan), and therefore distant from him. His world is lonely, a feeling the film explores with vivid clarity. His wife, son, cab driver, etc. are no different to him (though Noonan appropriately makes many of these characters recognizable). But then he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). It’s the type of instant attraction that can change your life. The type of connection that can make you feel like you’re the only two people in the world. It also later exposes Michael’s great flaw.

Kaufman is hardly an artist with a resume full of cheerful works. Anomalisa is no different. Michael’s loneliness ends up being what makes him him. His inability to connect to people reflects his own failure to recognize anyone’s individuality apart from his own. These character traits turn the film into a cautionary tale of the pitfalls of complete self-involvement. Lisa is a perfect foil to Michael, reserved yet open to the possibility of beauty. No matter what, the film makes her sound like herself and rewards her for the fresh experience she has. That ends up being Anomalisa‘s greatest reward overall. Michael’s anxiety to not be like everyone else juxtaposed to Lisa’s willingness to just purely live points to a satisfying existence even through all the menial crap. It makes for one hell of a satisfying work of art as well. Grade: A

By Matt Dougherty

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