Anomalisa is a 2015 stop-motion animation comedy-drama film directed by Charlie Kaufman and co-directed by Duke Johnson. Charlie Kaufman wrote screenplays for films like Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind (2004) and Synecdoche, New York (2008).
In his films, Kaufman often explores human nature and concepts like mortality, identity crises and meaning of life. He first wrote Anomalisa for a radio play in 2005 and later decided to make a full length animated feature film. It is Kaufman’s first animated film and he did not choose CGI animation which is so common and in trend nowadays. Instead, he chose puppets because they look more realistic and go with the kind of mood he wanted to be showcased in the film. Kaufman also placed a sex scene with puppets and it is weird but amazing. The puppets look like they are puppets but still walk naturally and talk realistically. Through his extraordinary animation, Co-director Johnson leaves us with a thought,
“Are we really humans or puppets like the ones showed in the movie?”
Anomalisa shares its theme and story with earlier films like Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation (2002) and Spike Jonze’s Her (2013).
Anomalisa is about Michael Stone, a customer service expert who is in Ohio to promote his book. In first few scenes, we see that Michael is going through mid-life crises, his life is mundane because, to him, every voice sounds the same and every face he looks at is identical, including his wife’s and son’s. It is clear that this character is suffering from the rare neuropsychiatric condition known as the “Fregoli delusion/syndrome”.
One day while taking a shower in his hotel room, he hears a distinct voice from another room of the hotel, he runs and finds that there are two ladies and one of them has distinct face and voice, her name is Lisa, although the other lady seems to have more self-confidence and is bold but it’s Lisa whom he invites to his hotel room.
In the subsequent scene Lisa asks him, why he chose her over her friend who is more beautiful (because Lisa has a scar on one side of her face which she covers with her hair all the time), Michael says, to him she is different and that’s where the film’s title comes from, he calls her Anomalisa (inspired by the word anomaly which means “different”). Michael gets happy and asks Lisa to sing a song for him and she sings a sad version of “girls just want to have fun” which Michael likes so much that he starts to cry.
Voices play an important part in the film’s narrative; there are only three voices in the whole movie. The first voice is of Michael and it is given by David Thewlis and Lisa’s voice is given by Jennifer Jason Leigh and the rest of the voices in the movie are given by Tom Noonan.
Tom Noonan’s voice is so perfect as his voice neither sounds like a male or female nor like a kid or an elder person. Jennifer also did a fantastic job in Lisa’s voice; her singing in the song “girls just want to have fun” is simply mesmerizing.
The night which Michael spends with Lisa he thinks he has found the escape from his monotonous life because of Lisa. He ignores all the other emotions, relations and thinks he has found true love. He builds his own version of Lisa in his head but the story for Michael doesn’t remain same the next morning as after noticing some annoying habits of Lisa during breakfast, Lisa’s face and voice also start changing like every other character in the movie.
Michael starts to think that even Lisa is no different than any other average person whom he encountered so far.
Lisa in the final scenes of the movie is a changed person, she now thinks she is beautiful because of the confidence Michael plants in her that night, her self-doubts are now gone but on the other side, Michael goes back to his family, he is still the same person and his life is miserable because of the people who exist in his life.
But he never doubts himself or his way of thinking towards life. He thinks humans are now uninteresting and they all think and do the same stuff and he’s the only different individual left.
In the last scene, we see Michael sitting on stairs and regretting his life while Lisa is driving back with her friend Emily but now in this scene (which is the only scene in the movie from Lisa’s perspective) Lisa and Emily both have their own faces.
Watch it for cinematic brilliance of Charlie Kaufman’s mind and to know why Glenn Kenny from Roger Ebert website called it “One of those rare perfect films.