Charlie Kaufman has written some very original and off-beat scripts (including “Being John Malkovich” and “The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”). “Anomalisa” is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before, both visually as well as in subject matter. If you are looking for a unique cinematic experience, you won’t be disappointed with this sexually-explicit puppet movie about one day in a man’s mid-life crisis. The animation is so amazing and realistic that at times you forget the actors aren’t real people.
Michael (voice of David Thewlis) is a wealthy and successful author living in L.A. who has written a best selling book about customer service. He travels to Cincinnati to give a lecture at the National Public Service Convention. For reasons we don’t understand, despite his considerable success, Michael is quite alienated, extremely depressed, drinking too much, and is borderline psychotic. Other than his own voice, at least before he meets Lisa (a wonderful Jennifer Jason Leigh), every other puppet in the movie (male or female) has the same male voice (Tom Noonan).
Later that evening at his 4-star hotel, he meets Lisa, who is also staying there along with a female friend. They also have customer service careers and are attending the convention. Lisa idealizes Michael and has read his book. Amazingly, he is able to hear Lisa’s actual voice, so he is enchanted and very drawn to her, even though she isn’t very attractive. (Apparently, in Michael’s inner world, there was just himself and “them” until he met Lisa.)
Lisa, although charmingly shy, soon agrees to spend the night with him. They talk for a while in his room and then make love. This was the most unique X-rated movie love-making scene I have ever witnessed, and I even found it quite erotic. (This scene really stands out among the hundreds of other puppet movie sex scenes I’ve had the pleasure to view.)
I won’t reveal any more about the plot, but suffice to say that the script is thought-provoking, as well as having a few very funny scenes. The psychic forces that put Michael over-the-edge remained a mystery (at least to me), but his unbearable existential loneliness was certainly one of them.
I wouldn’t put this film in in my top 10 for 2015, despite its originality, but some of my movie-loving friends have it on their top 10 lists.
If you are interested in another take on this film, my good friend Neil (see link below) has also reviewed it. He has a great blog with posts about films, music, food, museums, etc. He is a very intelligent, funny, and perceptive man, and I think most of you would enjoy his posts.