A psychologically troubled novelty supplier is nudged towards a romance with an English woman, all the while being extorted by a phone-sex line run by a crooked mattress salesman, and purchasing stunning amounts of pudding.
Paul Thomas Anderson
Philip Seymour Hoffman
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
When Michael is checking into the hotel, the receptionist hands him his hotel key card and Michael places it into his back pocket. But when the bellboy shows Michael to his room, the bellboy has the key card in his back pocket now. See more »
It's been 8 years since Charlie Kaufman's directorial debut, Synedoche, New York - that great but under-appreciated little film about a man (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) who dreamed of building a scale model of New York in a warehouse. The critics seemed to like it but didn't voice their approval very loudly, and chances are many won't remember its existence. Funded by a Kickstarter campaign, Kaufman's latest is a stop-motion collaboration with Duke Johnson, an animator probably most famous for his Adult Swim works.
Beginning with mundane chatter in mundane locations, Anomalisa is in no rush to hit you with any visual splendour, which tends to be the norm for animated films. Instead, we follow our miserable protagonist Michael Stone (David Thewlis), a British motivational speaker whose book on customer service is the handbook for those unfortunate enough to be in the business, as he lands in Cincinnati. He grabs a cab ride with an annoying driver who seems to be completely unaware of Michael's depressed, frustrated state, and insists he visit the zoo and tries to Cincinnati's famous chilli. He arrives at his hotel, the Fregoli, where he is unnecessarily escorted to his room by an over-friendly bell boy who informs him of the delights of his standard, mediocre room.
It's probably at this point that you'll realise you haven't been imagining that all the characters look and sound alike, and instead that this is a deliberate tactic key to understanding the mindset of Michael and the themes of the film. The name of the hotel is a clue, as the Fregoli delusion is a condition that causes a person to imagine everyone else to be the same entity in disguise with the sole purpose of inflicting torment on the sufferer. Here, everyone has the face of an adult white male (even the women and children) and has been blessed with the soothing, distinctive voice of Tom Noonan. It is only when Michael stumbles upon two women in his hotel who are there to see his speech the following day that this spell is broken. One of the two women, Lisa, has a barely noticeable facial disfigurement and sounds like Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Michael is enamoured.
Michael's relationship with Lisa, who be dubs 'Anomalisa', gives the film a much-needed heart, as this may have otherwise been an exercise in misanthropy. There's no fantasy romance here, but a dinner date where everyone involved drinks too much, Michael's awkward invitation for Lisa to accompany him back to his room, and a sex scene which is, ironically, the most realistic I've ever seen on film. Michael accidentally rolls onto her hair, she bangs her head, he asks her the awkward question of whether she's cool with oral sex - there's certainly no pan to a roaring fireplace,
You would think that the heightened sense of realism would make the choice to film this in stop-motion slightly redundant, but oddly, it makes the film even more human. It also allows Kaufman and Johnson to show much more of life's ugliness - we are treated to Michael's middle-aged stark naked body jumping out of the shower and the sight of a random man across the way getting ready to masturbate in front of his computer. It's often difficult to sit through. I work in customer services myself and can empathise with Michael's internal struggle of feeling trapped within himself and that others are barely distinguishable from one another. Don't expect any tidy resolutions either, Kaufman is intelligent enough to realise that the excitement of meeting an interesting girl is only temporary, and life will still go on. It's upsetting, certainly, but Anomalisa offers a real insight into the human soul and makes a lasting impression.
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