This isn’t your typical animation feature. Rated R for graphic nudity, language and for having strong sexual content, “Anomalisa” is screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s (“Synecdoche, New York”) return to cinema. His stop-motion and Oscar-nominated masterpiece gives us a taste of what it means to be human.
Heavy, honest and downright odd, the film takes viewers on a surreal ride of love, loneliness and the philosophical questioning of existence of two very human puppets and their meeting at a hotel in Cincinnati.
Directors Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman create a world of the monotone and the mundane by opening the film with the chatter of voices (Tom Noonan) that overlaps each other in a maddening and claustrophobic way. Depressed British self-help author, Michael Stone (David Thewlis) was on his way to Cincinnati for a business trip when he checks in a hotel for a one-night stay and encounters a livid stranger.
All of the characters in the film look the same and sound the same, thanks to Noonan, but upon the arrival of Akron, Ohio native, Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), there is a relief of a new voice that was enjoyable to listen to because of the bright and Midwestern voice of Leigh. Stone immediately fell in love. It was an escape for him as it was for viewers as she came out of her hotel room in a robe giggling with life at the approach of her idol.
The film, only 93 minutes long, haunts with the horror of the ordinary and almost robotic and dry format that we could sadly probably relate to.
It is with the relationship that the two had and the desire that they had for one another through their loneliness that they both became alive and brought aliveness to the film.
The rawest and perhaps most awkward, yet beautiful scene of the film was where they have sex. That’s right. Puppet sex. Which I will never see done again probably, at least in a long time, so brilliant in its oddity.
What does it mean to be human? Stone asks a crowd in promotion of his self-help book. What does it mean to be ache? To be alive?
It was because it was a film featuring puppets that I adore and recommend “Anomalisa.” Puppets that honestly displayed the human condition and the anomaly of love.