I just watched my third film in Toronto since February, 2015, and I have given each of those films four stars. I guess I’ll have to start flying to Toronto every week to watch films (as soon as I buy my private solar-powered jet). This time, I watched the film with Peter and Ken, which was important because I needed Ken to provide the psychological interpretation of Anomalisa. Anomalisa is an animated film made by Charlie Kaufman, whose films (all of which I love) are notoriously unique and ‘thought-provoking’ (i.e. mind-numbing).
Anomalisa actually felt to me like an adult (and I do mean ‘adult’ - it’s rated 18A) version of Inside Out. This time we’re in the head of a middle-aged man by the name of Michael Stone, a personal-communication (i.e. customer service) expert having a midlife crisis. Stone has just flown from L.A. to Cincinnati to be the keynote speaker at a conference. After settling into yet another typical hotel room (although the Fregoli is a very high-end hotel), Stone, who has been married for ten years (and has a young son) but feels very lonely, remembers that his ex-girlfriend lives in Cincinnati. He looks her up in the phonebook, calls her and arranges to meet. When that goes badly, Stone fends off his despair by hanging out with a couple of women who are in town just to hear him speak.
Things get a little whacky along the way, as we try to figure out why almost everyone Stone talks with has the same voice and the same face. Despite being a communication expert who talks about the importance of recognizing individuality, Stone has great difficulty with both.
There are only three voices in Anomalisa. David Thewlis (who has a very distinctive voice) plays Stone, which was a constant distraction for me because Stone bears no resemblance to Thewlis. Nevertheless, Thewlis does very well with the voice, as does Jennifer Jason Leigh with the only female voice (Lisa) and Tom Noonan with everyone else.
The stop-motion animation is quite extraordinary (and quite gorgeous) and reminds me of nothing else I have ever watched before (the entire film felt like nothing I have ever watched before, which is high praise indeed). The score by Carter Burwell is perfect.
Anomalisa is a very funny and very sad existential film, with many layers of meaning and lots to think about. I was initially put off by a couple of the scenes, and struggled with my sympathy for the protagonist, but the more I though about (and talked about) the film, the more I appreciated it, to the point where I realized that I was using the word ‘brilliant’ to describe Anomalisa and that I would need to give it ****. Since it wasn’t released in Canada (or anywhere else, really) until well into 2016, watch for it in my top ten list of 2016. My mug is up.