Review: Anomalisa (2016) – January 9, 2016 on LaLaFilm.com
Anomalisa was 3 years in the making. It’s a truly handmade movie with 118,089 frames of stop motion film. Using animation makes the film’s topic more universal as it’s not tied to actors we might recognize. We will never see these animated actors again, unless they remake this film.
The premise, written by Charlie Kaufman, surrounds the overnight business trip of an author named Michael Stone. Detached even before he arrives, Michael finds himself bored in his hotel room the night before he is to make a motivational speech on customer service. He is later to advise his audience that callers can infer even over the phone whether you are providing service with a smile or not.
Throughout the film, Michael aggressively searches for a reason to smile and to be excited about his own life. In his world, everyone speaks with the voice of Tom Noonan, except one. He meets Lisa and relishes her soft standout female voice (that of Jennifer Jason Leigh). An exploration of the unique follows.
Although not performed by humans, the story can still hit home. I always wondered why men can leave a relationship suddenly. Leaving the woman as if at the edge of a cliff teetering herself to either lean back to safety or fall ahead into the pits for good. I’m happy to see Charlie Kaufman’s offering of an explanation, at least for this character’s reasoning. I have never seen any of Charlie Kaufman’s other films, but I am very intrigued to do so now.
Surprisingly, there is a graphic love scene, and nudity, but what is even more raw is the psychological display of the characters. Lisa opens up to Michael admitting she’s surprised he didn’t chose her friend, Emily over her, as men usually do. She admits her difference and says she now embraces herself as an anomaly. Lisa sings “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” for Michael. He just wants to hear her voice, but she is chanting words she lives by, “…we’re not the fortunate ones. And girls they want to have fun…” Lisa represents those who are not the popular, beautiful, nor the ideal ones. She is basically saying yeah, despite all that I am, hey, I still deserve a good life, too.
While Michael finds his life boring and although he keeps seeking something, he doesn’t have the skill to find it. Lisa, on the other hand, embraces her defects, albeit a little too loudly, but she lives with hope and a bright spirit. Although Michael has all the attributes of a good life, he still lacks a lot. Whereas, Lisa with all the things that should hold her back, remains rich with zest.
Emily declares Michael as crazy, but even the sane have their irrational moments. Michael searches for a love, but doesn’t quite grasp how love works. All at once, he declares his love for Lisa and that she makes him feel so good that he can never do without her. And within a few moments after that declaration, he already apparently becomes annoyed by her. He returns home to his wife who declares her love for him, but is aware of his indifference, and thus the futility of it all.
While the film progresses though the maze of Michael’s meandering mind, the film’s last scene ends with Lisa, or, as she is renamed by Michael, Anomalisa. As the film is named after her, perhaps the message of the film is hers. Embrace the different because ALL girls just want to have fun.