A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.
THIS FILM IS RECOMMENDED.
IN BRIEF: A serious treatise on loneliness that, while making some intriguing insights, does ramble on and on.
SYNOPSIS: On a business trip, a lonely man searches for love among the ruins of his ordinary life.
￼I begin this review with a quote from Immanuel Kant: "Happiness is not an ideal of reason, but of imagination". This sums up the film, Anomalisa very succinctly. The film is an imaginative journey into the mind of a sad man who has lost all reason, living in a world where everyone is uniformly the same, in voice and appearance.
Nominated for a 2015 Oscar for Best Animated Film (and finally receiving wider distribution nearly 4 months later), Charlie Kauffman's stop-motion film has an odd yet intoxicating allure. It is a character study of a lonely man content to live within his own illusions, with reality just outside his grasp.
David Thewlis voices the character of Michael Stone, a man unable to connect with others. Michael settles for his cloistered existence. His responsibilities to his family and his job ties him down. He is a successful author and keynote speaker, discussing self-help techniques to the masses without the ability to help himself in his private life. On a business trip, he meets various strangers (all voiced by Tom Noonan). A feeling of hopelessness overpowers him. But it isn't until he finally hears a different voice in the form of Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that he finally awakens to life and all of its wondrous possibilities. He nicknames her Anomalisa (a cross between an anomaly and Lisa herself). Their encounter becomes the crux of the film as MIchael's sanity slowly becomes unhinged, in the most literal sense.
￼Writer / director Charlie Kauffman creates a dreamlike film that is visually captivating but leaves many questions unanswered. (Sharing directing credit is also Duke Johnson.) With its deep philosophical bent, Mr. Kauffman's screenplay allows for too much intellectualizing and grand- standing of the human condition, interfering with the beauty of his simple tale.
The film is beautifully staged with wonderful detailed sets by the production team of John Joyce and Huy Vu and a haunting score by the reliable Carter Burwell that adds to the melancholia. The film's initial premise is intriguing, like experiencing a profound lecture or reading a compelling essay or poem, yet the level of satisfaction will differ with each viewer. Does one like metaphysical debates about the importance of life, happiness, and the general state of the human condition? Is it time well spent or wasted on thought-provoking meaningless observations? Is the glass half-empty, half-full, or not really there at all? Was I caught in a freshman class of Philosophy 101? (As you might tell, my feelings were decidedly mixed.)
￼While I enjoyed the film's animation and the atmospheric toll on the characters, this wisp of a plot edged on monotony, even though the film dealt with some provocative concepts. Technically, the stop-motion aspects are quite effective and achieve a graceful elegance. (Midway, the film takes on a more surreal quality which I personally found more compelling before it reverses itself once again.) But the overall script needed more risks into a wider range of bizarre and weird images that are capable within this animated genre. Instead, Kauffman and Co. settle for a tame strangeness as it trips over in its own wordiness and drawn-out ramblings.
No doubt this film is a labor of love and, on that, it should be commended. Anomalisa is the type of film project that one can greatly admire, but love never became part of the equation for this reviewer. Like the character of Michael, I just could not connect emotionally. I remained an avid observer and outsider throughout this movie-going experience, with true happiness just out of my grasp as well.
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- Mar 19, 2016