Anomalisa

Year: 2016
Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
Starring: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan (all voice)
Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

By looking at stills from ‘Anomalisa’, I was mainly astounded at the level of detail which had gone into the animation process. To me, animation like this is a little bit mind-blowing and very, very impressive; for the sheer amount of time and patience it must require more than anything. This peculiar project was nominated for best animated feature at the Golden Globes, only to lose to ‘Inside Out’ (which I really didn’t enjoy by the way), and I suspect the same will happen at The Oscars too. Honestly though, ‘Anomalisa’ is the only animated film worthy of the win.

This is a story all about how, this very mundane guy’s life got flip-turned upside-down. Michael Stone (David Thewlis), an expert in customer service practices, is in the US to give a talk on said practices. Boring, right? Here’s where it gets interesting. Michael may look normal, but deep down, he’s pretty fucked up. We see glimpses of this when he calls up ex-lover Bella, who he hasn’t seen for 11 years, and asks if she wants to swing by for a drink and a chat. When that goes pear-shaped, Michael befriends a couple of fangirls staying at the hotel (yes, customer service gurus have fangirls too) and quickly decides he’s in love with the weirder of the two, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

The fucked up thing is, in Michael’s head, everybody is in love with him. There’s a lot of really trippy scenes which stem from Michael’s delusions, including an ‘Ex Machina’ style “slipping of the mask” (when you see it, you’ll know). This all culminates in an intense and uncomfortable talk Michael gives on customer service (with the added bonus of conspiracy theories and personal torment thrown in); a scene which is pretty damn powerful, so much so that I forgot I was watching an animation briefly. That’s the beauty of ‘Anomalisa’; it’s so ordinary and simple on the surface that it’s easy to lose yourself in the story which is a clever reflection of “real life”. More attention than you’d think necessary is paid to irrelevant conversations and interactions, the small, unimportant actions we carry out when we’re alone, and a bitter sense of disillusion which I’m sure we’ve all felt at some point in our lives.

The animation process that’s gone into this film is quite stunning and is the main reason I’m pushing for ‘Anomalisa’ to trump the competition in the animated feature category at The Oscars 2016. The realism of the animated characters is chillingly convincing, with subtle expressions and great attention to detail with regards to movements and in particular, the skin of the characters. It is this exceptional realism of the animation which makes the graphic sex scene (like, really graphic) such an uncomfortable yet courageous scene. Yeah, you heard me right, there’s a sex scene, and nothing is held back; it puts ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ to shame (even more shame than it already deserves). 

It may not be gripping or thrilling, but ‘Anomalisa’ is intelligent and beautiful in its authenticity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s weird as fuck, but it’s a good weird. However, this definitely isn’t a film for the masses, and I can’t in good conscience recommend the average film fan to take a punt on ‘Anomalisa’. To those who revel in the unusual though (and anyone who likes an animated romp), ‘Anomalisa’ is a quirky little treat.

Jakob’s rating: 7.5 out of 10
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