Anyone who has seen Charlie Kaufman’s work knows beforehand to be prepared for more than just a regular movie.
Kaufman, writer of Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and director of Synecdoche, sees the world differently than most, and his films reflect that.
At his films’ cores, they are all about what it is to be human-how we function, why anyone does what they do and so forth-but he presents them in various and interesting ways. For example, Eternal Sunshine is a love story that’s told mostly inside the main character’s head.
With his latest film, Anomalisa, Kaufman presents an incredibly realistic portrayal about the banality of life, with the twist that all his characters are puppets.
Directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson and adapted from Kaufman’s own play that he wrote back in 2005, Anomalisa stars the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan, all reprising their roles from the play. The movie follows “Michael Stone,” an average man promoting his new book in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Michael’s life is depressingly boring, as everyone he speaks to all have the same face and voice. Man or woman, everyone looks and sounds the same to Michael, until he meets “Lisa,” another woman staying in his hotel. For the first time in years, he’s able to hear a new voice, and he falls in love with her.
Though all the characters are puppets, Anomalisa is still one of the realest films ever made.
We follow Michael doing everything from riding in a cab to his hotel, to him checking in and ordering room service. There’s no rush to the movie, which can be frustrating to some viewers, but Anomalisa is less about what is happening on the screen and more about the relatability of the character. I don’t think I’m out of line when I say most people have at times felt stuck or unsure of what they want in life, and, with these scenes, Kaufman is able to capture these feelings that man, woman or puppet have felt in their lifetime.
The voice acting, especially from Thewlis, is fantastic. It’s obvious that the actors are familiar with every aspect of these characters thanks to already having performed them during the play’s run.
The film isn’t without faults, however.
While some of the scenes are meant to be somewhat boring so as to mimic real life, they can go on a little longer than needed to get the point across. Michael himself isn’t exactly the most sympathetic character-definitely relatable, but not the kind of person you’d want to spend a ton of time alone with.
Anomalisa is not exactly a feel-good movie, so those looking for a light-hearted, animated film may want to look elsewhere, but viewers looking to be challenged or for something different, check it out for free on Amazon Prime.