Friday, January 1, 2016
Indie Review: Anomalisa (2015)
'Up In The Air': The Kaufman Version
Dang, if I had made my list of the top 10 movies of the year after seeing this, this film probably would've made it somewhere on there.
Anomalisa follows the story of a writer named Michael Stone (David Thewlis) who, over the course one day when he stays at a hotel, begins to find his life more awakened when he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a fellow hotel guest with a peculiar voice.
Now when I saw the trailer for the film, I was curious as to how they would make a stop motion animation film out of a story that seems like it could easily be told in live action. But co-writers/directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson are able to figure out some way to make it distinguished. One way is that all the characters, other than David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, are voiced by Tom Noonan. Noonan even plays the other women and the voice of Michael's kid. When he voices Michael's kid, he doesn't even alter his voice. I thought having Noonan play all the secondary characters was genius.
Now onto the two main actors. David Thewlis offers a poignant mix of both melancholy and sensitivity as Michael Stone. Michael may seem like a character we wouldn't normally care about, Thewlis is able to give him sympathetic layers through sudden inflictions of his voice. As great he is, though, it is Jennifer Jason Leigh who quietly steals the film. Leigh's voice work is brilliant as a woman who is entrancing and full of spirit yet is unable to understand why men would fall so deeply in love with her. She has a scene where she sings Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" which is very sweet and tender yet also becomes heartbreaking.
But I feel the reason Tom Noonan does most of the voice work is to use him giving the same voice as a metaphor for the mundanity of human beings. How ordinary and plain we feel. But when Michael meets Lisa, whose voice is different from everyone elses, he finds himself falling for her distinction.
Since this is a Charlie Kaufman movie, I have to give a shout out to his screenwriting which is very rich. Both Kaufman and Duke Johnson write the screenplay in a contained manner, keeping it in limited settings. Since it also mainly consists of conversations, the dialogue between the characters I found to be quite rich. The film reminds me a lot of the LGBT drama Weekend which is about a romance between two men that takes place in one weekend. Only this romance takes place on one night.
Overall, Anomalisa is a genius piece of stop motion animation that may not star actual humans yet still says a lot about the ordinariness and mundanity of human nature.