Sometimes the world isn’t enough for a person, especially when they’re drowning in white noise. Charlie Kaufman, screenwriter of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, writes and directs Anomalisa, an animated film about an isolated man named Michael Stone, an author specializing in customer service who is dealing with a banal life. David Thewlis plays the protagonist, Jennifer Jason Leigh takes the role of Lisa, the love interest, and Tom Noonan voices everyone else (literally).
Imagine a piece of art that slices away the skin covering life, revealing the nightmarish, mundane workings of what it is to be human. Now, imagine that the same artist focuses on something magical, and does the exact same thing with that same knife. Charlie Kaufman sharply pens this screenplay with creativity that bleeds. He delves into familiar themes of the monotony of life and love in fresh ways, allowing us to view them from an angle we’ve never stood in long enough before.
Kaufman also directs Anomalisa, along with Duke Johnson, and both really capture an intimate look into the sad, lonely life of a middle-aged man as he tries to find himself in the Fregoli hotel. This stop-motion animation film is so realistic and well done that you’re able to lose yourself in the characters, unlike other animated movies where you’re conscious that they’re animated at all times. The film also uses a tactic with the voice actors that truly adds to the perspective of the main character, immersing the audience further into the shoes of Mr. Stone. The use of puppets created by 3D printers allowed for Kaufman and Johnson’s imagination to soar, as Michael falls deeper into the abyss.
David Thewlis, playing Michael Stone, does a tremendous job lending his voice to a character that is so broken, yet is struggling to hold it together to keep up with normalcy. Thewlis perfectly hits every beat and tone for this character, especially his feelings of hope and despair. Jennifer Jason Leigh fits into the role of Lisa perfectly. Lisa is the shy, oddball type that’s hesitant, but yearning to break free, and Jennifer Jason Leigh captures her spirit very well. Lastly, Tom Noonan voicing everyone else is comedic, and also transitions to becoming quite eerie as the story progresses.
The feelings of Stone are extreme, and he’s mostly a downer of a character in this R-rated film that is on the opposite end of the spectrum in relation to Pixar’s tone. There’s definitely some relative themes that come to life in imaginative ways, and despite all the darkness, it also explores the magic of love, where everyone seems the same except the one. This may not be a film for mainstream audiences, as is the case with most Kaufman films, but it’s worth the exploration.
Overall, Anomalisa is like a zombie flick where assembly line humans replace the zombies, and rather than eating flesh, they devour uniqueness with their monotonous teeth. It taps into the fear of being trapped in a sea of generic people, where one would feel most alone. Stone’s chase to find someone or something that will let him out of the nightmare, even if it’s only for a few moments, is relative to the point where the film lingers long after the credits roll.