Review: ‘Anomalisa’ Gets Under Your Skin

You don’t get much more niche than Anomalisa – a crowd-funded stop-motion animation from master headchuffer Charlie Kaufman, writer of Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind and Adaptation. Unheard from since his frustrating 2008 directorial debut Synecdoche, New York, Kaufman creates cinema of grouchy self-doubt and grotesque self-deception, but anyone not already clued-in may wonder what they’ve stumbled upon.

Co-directed by Duke Johnson, Anomalisa dramatises its mundanities in an extraordinary manner. Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a middle-aged English motivational speaker staying overnight in a depressing Cincinatti hotel, where he meets – and romances – awkward fan Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). For an hour things tick along like a particularly deflating episode of British sitcom I’m Alan Partridge or Lost In Translation leeched of all hope.

What’s extraordinary is the puppets themselves, which are painfully expressive even if it’s only boredom and bafflement they’re feeling. Tellingly, each is creased above the eyes, as if you could pick open their brains and gaze inside (a regular feature of Kaufman’s oeuvre). They even manage a realistic sex scene – if you’ve ever wondered what Wallace (of And Gromit fame) would look like performing cunnilingus, look no further.

After a classically Kaufmanesque nightmare, we come to realise that something more profound is happening: something sad and slightly scary relating to the failed connections between people. Bar the love-it-or-hate-it Synecdoche, this is easily the hardest Kaufman film to love, but it gets under your skin, and you’ll never guess where it’s going even if, like Stone himself, that’s loopily nowhere.

‘Anomalisa’ Movie Times

Follow This Film Up With: The Illusionist, Up, It’s Such a Beautiful Day