In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
Michael Stone, an author that specializes in customer service, is a man who is unable to interact deeply with other people. His low sensitivity to excitement, and his lack of interest made him a man with a repetitive life on his own perspective. But, when he went on a business trip, he met a stranger - an extraordinary stranger, which slowly became a cure for his negative view on life that possibly will change his mundane life. Written by
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When we are looking out of the hotel room at the city through the rain-spattered glass, the moon rises in the night sky followed by the sun rising in the morning from right to left, which is the wrong direction for the the Northern Hemisphere, where the movie is set. See more »
"Anomalisa" is Kaufman at his most unusual - and most awkward.
An anomaly, according to Miriam-Webster's online dictionary is "something that is unusual or unexpected." For example, an animated feature film for adults could be called an anomaly among animated movies. Another example could be an R-rated animated movie receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature Film, an Oscar-related anomaly. Both examples of the use of the word anomaly apply to "Anomalisa" (R, 1:30), the adult animated feature film from Charlie Kaufman. It's a movie based on a radio play (another anomaly) that Kaufman wrote in 2005. The film uses only three voice actors, they happen to be the same voice actors who originally performed the radio play, the animation is of the stop-motion variety and uses marionettes. Chalk up four more anomalies, an unexpectedly large number for a single movie and I have yet to start describing the film's plot.
Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) is a British author living in Los Angeles. Michael has a devoted wife and son at home, but he still feels desperately lonely. He is also, to borrow a phrase from Bruce Springsteen, tired and bored with himself. He seems to get no joy out of anything in his life and often worries that he is losing his mind. Everyone he meets seems to have the same face and speak with the same voice. And, within the film, both of those are the case, courtesy of the animation work of Kaufman's co-director Duke Johnson and the voice work of actor Tom Noonan. Early in the film, the hotel where Michael checks in is even called the Fregoli, a reference to a rare psychological disorder in which someone believes that everyone he or she meets is actually the same person wearing disguises.
Michael is in Cincinnati to speak at a conference of customer service professionals about his newest book, "How May I Help You Help Them?" We see him having awkward conversations with another passenger on his flight, then the cab driver who takes him to the Fregoli Hotel, then the bellboy who takes him to his room, then his wife whom he calls from his room, then an old girlfriend whom he calls next. What follows are several awkward encounters with fellow hotel guests he meets while knocking on doors looking for a person whose voice he heard from inside his room – a voice that sounded different from the voice he hears coming out of every other person he encounters throughout his day.
Then, Michael finds that unique voice (Jennifer Jason Leigh) coming out of a face which he also sees as different from everyone else. Her name is Lisa and she happens to be in town for that conference – mostly because she wants to hear his speech. Michael invites Lisa and her co-worker/roommate (also voiced by Tom Noonan) to come down to the hotel bar for drinks. As they drink and talk, Michael's attachment to Lisa grows. Lisa explains how she learned many new big words from reading Michael's book, including the word anomaly, which she likes because she herself feels "different" and "unusual". Michael dubs her "Anomalisa" and thinks she may be the one person who can break him out of his funk.
"Anomalisa" is one of the most unusual movies you'll ever see. I just wish that were a good thing. The film is very creative, but also just plain weird. The situations in which we see Michael early in the film are too mundane to be interesting and his excruciatingly banal interactions with a series of people who have the same voice and basically the same face become increasingly uncomfortable to watch. When a few things that can actually be called unusual take place, they're just too strange to be entertaining. At several points during this movie, I came close to walking out of the theater. After Michael meets Lisa, the story finally gets a little bit interesting, but maintains its unpleasant awkwardness in almost every scene and ends in a way that I found unsatisfying and pointless.
A few times during the film, the words "What the ---- is this?!?" popped into my head. As the closing credits started to roll, that question came back to me as, "What the ---- WAS THAT?!?" Just then, a man in the row behind me vocalized my thoughts word-for-word. Someone else responded with a tentative "I liked it." I can hardly imagine why. I'll give some credit to Kaufman and company for the creative animation (even as odd as it felt to see such ahem, "anatomically correct" marionettes) and I respect the film's message of breaking out of life's ruts, but this movie seems to want to be weird just for the sake of being weird. "Anomalisa" is an anomaly in many ways, but few of them are entertaining. "D+"
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