Anomalisa will draw you in visually and even more so through its sounds in the first minutes of the film as voices, all in the same tone, play over the intro not long before the title character, Michael Stone, is on screen.
I left the theater not being able to stop thinking about the film and the deep human emotion and struggle expressed in 90 minutes. It’s such a sensory experience that when I left the theater everything outside seemed more amplified (a man whistling — not unlike Michael in the film) and the street noise all around me in Uptown.
In the film, Michael is an author and speaker in Cincinnati for a conference. Placing him and the other main characters, primarily Lisa, in a hotel out of their element in some ways served to highlight the uncertain state of where they are in their lives and where they would like to be. They are surrounded by other people who sound (through the voice of Tom Noonan) the same and have similar appearances while Michael and Lisa look different. She has a scar on her face and color in her hair while he’s always smoking and a little unkempt compared to other people at the hotel.
Writer and director Charlie Kaufman, with animator Duke Johnson, (you must listen to their interview with Marc Maron) took the story he originally wrote for the stage to the screen through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Anomalisa had a limited release in theaters (there is only one more day of showtimes at the Lagoon Cinema in Minneapolis unless it goes back to the second run theaters) and is now nominated for Best Animated Feature Film at the Oscars.
Inside Out will surely still win in that category and does also tell a story of human emotion and struggle — but Anomalisa is on a whole other level.
I still can’t even really wrap my mind around the whole picture of the film and its characters and what it’s all supposed to mean. Michael Stone is clearly searching for something outside of his marriage and life back in Los Angeles before he meets Lisa. She is from Ohio and at the hotel to see Michael’s speech on customer service, a field she works in.
They are drawn together for one night and leave to go back to their lives with a sense of mystery as to what will happen next.
I know I will watch this film again, and then again after that, to take more of it in and even just to study more of the stop motion animation style.
I may not figure out all the subtext in Anomalisa, and certainly there is always supposed to be some unknowns in a film for the viewers, but I know there is more to learn from Kaufman’s work.
For now, all I can say is it really is magical and embodies what cinema is supposed to be.