Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
With perhaps the smallest cast of any film this year—it’s just three actors: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan—the Charlie Kaufman R-rated head-spinner “Anomalisa” gives Pixar’s summer juggernaut “Inside Out” some serious competition for this year’s Best Animated Picture.
Customer service expert Michael Stone (Thewlis) flies into Cincinnati the night before he’s set to speak at a business conference. Set up in a nice hotel room, Stone faces, again, the monotony of his dull life. His days have become routine, humdrum. Everyone sounds the same (it’s because they are, all voiced by Noonan). But as he gets out of the shower and prepares to face another night alone, he hears a new voice. One of a girl, whom he searches for in the hallway. It’s Lisa (Leigh), who happens to be in town to hear Stone tomorrow at his conference. When he invites her back to his room, he faces an anomaly in his life: powerful, uninhibited love.
From the mind of Charlie Kaufman (“Being John Malkovich,” “Adaptation.”), who also co-directed the film with Duke Johnson, “Anomalisa” is a complex and sincere portrait of true love. It just takes a roundabout way of portraying it. The very adult scenes are uncomfortably realistic, despite the very different animation style. It’s a movie romance like you’ve never seen. But its imperfections and awkwardness are what make it real. “Anomalisa” manages, even using animation, to be one of the most honest and real films of 2015. The use of Noonan as “everyone else” allows Kaufman to tell his heart-felt story in a truly unique way. Just when you thought innovation in narrative fiction was impossible, Kaufman delivers an anomaly in “Anomalisa.”