Directed by Charlie Kaufman / Duke Johnson
This engrossing animated feature, a product of Charlie Kaufman’s creative mind and based on his own eponymous play, combines deep realism with hazily dreamlike tones, bringing forward the quasi-insane and delusional state of Michael Stone, an English author specialized in customer service, who's constantly fighting with his own inner demons.
For the ones who don’t know Charlie Kaufman, he’s the brilliant writer whose extravagant stories led to memorable films such as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, “Being John Malkovich”, “Adaptation”, and his intricate directorial debut feature, “Synecdoche, New York”. Most of the cited movies showed an almost lyrical fantasy enveloping the intriguing characters that populate highly rich and colorful backgrounds. That’s why “Anomalisa”, a stylishly crafted animated drama, wasn’t so much a novelty in terms of style, structure, and methodology. I was expecting lots of dreams, confusion, anguish, bitterness and sadness, which sometimes counterpoint with ephemeral moments of joy, resolution, and self-assurance, and that’s exactly what Mr. Kaufman, who co-directed with the debutant Duke Johnson, presents to us in a delightful, profound, and intelligent manner.
During the film, I almost didn’t remember that the characters were animated, so real and human they felt like.
We follow the main protagonist, who departs from L.A., where he lives unhappily with his wife and son, to speak in a highly expected conference in Cincinnati. Lonely and disconsolate, he tries to focus on his ideologies, mirrored in his highly acclaimed book, an inspiration to many people throughout the world.
The trip, however, reserves him much more than a derivative lecture that perplexes an avid audience. His adventures include an uncomfortably chatty cab ride from the airport to the hotel; an embarrassing meeting with a former lover; a one-night stand with the emotionally insecure Lisa, Michael’s passionate admirer turned into his obsessive object of love, who doesn’t understand why she was picked instead of her smart, popular, and cheeky friend, Emily; an agonizing nightmare in which the hotel manager confesses his love for him while criticizing his unexplainable fascination for Lisa; and a collection of panicking situations derived from his sinuous thoughts and emotions.
A curious peculiarity of this legitimate drama is that every character has a male voice, except for the simple but enchanting Lisa. Still, when the commitment intensifies and she acts a bit more controlling, this spelling progressively changes, leading us to a much tormenting conclusion.