Review: Anomalisa

I’m a little late to the game with this one but was determined to catch it in cinemas before it disappeared because it can’t really compete with 2 major animated releases and an epic blockbuster. Although it was a rather serious contender for this year’s Animated Feature Oscar but lost out to Inside Out and after watching it, it’s sort of understandable why it didn’t win that category. Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (co-directed with Duke Johnson) who brought us the weird and wonderful films of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich and this is certainly following that theme of outside the box thinking in film. The story of a man struggling with the overly mundane nature of his life until something happens which is unusual, all told using puppetry. Voiced by David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan.

Without trying to sound derogatory, there’s a certain reason why Thewlis’ voice is perfect for this role and film, his tone is one that sounds relatively constantly irritated or bored which sums up the character of Michael Stone fairly well. With Leigh it’s uncertain whether you could say the same, though it would appear the choice was for one with a fairly generic American accent but at the same time with the ability to display a fair amount of emotion vocally. For the most part it’s difficult to discuss the voice work as the majority of the dialogue is within the realm of ordinary conversation, the one thing you can say is that the experience of having one voice take on a multitude of characters throughout the entire film is unusual and to some respect a rather strange thing to witness.

There’s one word that constantly crops up when talking about this film and that’s human, it may physically not involve any humans on screen but the story and interactions are entirely human and relative to day to day experiences from awkward encounters to annoyingly unnecessary lengthened conversations. It is as advertised a depiction of a mundane existence but it does take a few strange turns which partially throws the story out of balance and confuses as to how it all fits together, but for a Kaufman film it is not particularly surprising. It certainly is puppetry as you’ve never seen it (or if you have then your film tastes are highly unique), there are certainly some more intimate moments which is again very human but through that medium it’s difficult to decipher whether it is in fact an intriguing use or provoking a sentiment of “What am I watching?” but it’s a unique experience. Though it does appear the more interesting struggle is deciding whether this mundane existence has come about through mental health issues or it is a simple case of egomania or a narcissistic personality but it’s definitely a case of audience perception.

Anomalisa is a definite anomaly itself, I can honestly say I have never seen anything like it, although I’m not sure I’m in a hurry to again, the experience is a valid one and worth a watch but it’s highly unusual. Kaufman’s work is generally outside most norms of film but this one feels as though it veers a little further off base and even upon reflection I’m still not sure if the whole thing is fascinating or disturbing, especially the idea of someone crafting puppet genitals, that is one very specific and odd job.

Verdict: 7/10

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