Movie Review: ANOMALISA (USA 2015) ***** TOP 10

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ANOMALISA_posterANOMALISA (USA 2015) ***** TOP 10
Directed Charlie Kauffman, Duke Johnson

Review by Gilbert Seah

Charlie Kauffman outdid himself and almost everyone else for that matter with the script of FINDING JOHN MALKOVICH, made into a film so inventive, entertaining and fascinating, that one can hardly imagine anything topping that. ANOMALISA comes close if not succeeding.

As the stop-motion animated adult comedy drama unfolds, slow enough to allow the audience to think over many of the film’s details, the immediate question that comes to mind is why animate this story. The question seems more relevant since the animation appears to copy the actual human being and their everyday work as accurately as possible. The characters are animated but the settings like hotel room, cab and props are not. A non-animated film could have served the identical purpose. The answer to the question might be that the story could have been told in either format, but the stop-motion animation serves to highlight certain aspects of Kauufman’s ingenious story. For one, the story has surreal elements that are best highlighted in a surreal looking animated film resembling the real thing. Secondly, the artificiality of life is emphasized. And thirdly, the whole enterprise looks like a dream – a Kafka-ish world like an animated cartoon.

The apparently ‘normal’ story concerns Michael Stone (David Thewlis), an author of books on the subject of customer service, struggling with his inability to connect to people. Michael, born in England and married with a son lands in Cincinnati on a routine business trip. He meets a stranger, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who changes his world view as he falls in love with her.

The film appears really odd at the start. All the female characters are voiced by males (except for Lisa) and soon it becomes apparent that all the voices are done by one male actor – Tom Noonan. The reason becomes clear later on in the film.

Kauufman’s film works on various levels. It is one of the most human films that is animated. The world as seen by its protagonist is exactly the way it actually is. The most important person is oneself and everything else is secondary. In the same way, to Michael Stone, the only person that matters is himself, which he realizes and that there is only one other person in the world that matters, the one he has fallen in love with and the one that really would make a difference. This is the one that will de-normalize his life and hence he renames her ANOMALISA from Lisa. The film also captures the boredom or everyday life in a most exciting way – a feat Kauffamn achieves, at apparent ease.

The stop animation is a marvel – complete with its accuracy in details. The animated sex scene complete with gentials should be seen to be unforgotten. An old movie seen on TV by the characters is also animated ANOMALISA has won accolades and prizes where it has been shown. It currently, at the time of writing, hold a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

ANOMALISA is an almost perfect film in every way, down to the closing song and music. The film is a rare treat that celebrates life and the best of what it has to offer, ironically, without having a happy ending. Not occasionally but frequently brilliant, ANOMALISA is that rare movie, yes out of the ordinary that is definitely a must-see, a near-masterpiece of originality!

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