★★★★ – “Brilliantly simple yet complex.”
Anomalisa is directed by Duke Johnson & Charlie Kaufman and stars a very small cast featuring the voice talents of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan.
Bored with a repetitive, monotonous life, Michael heads to Cincinnati, Ohio on a business trip. There he meets a special lady called Lisa.
Firstly, I’d like to comment on the look of this film. The animation team have really poured their hearts into this project and for a feature that was funded entirely on Kickstarter, it falls right next to anything Aardman or Laika have created. Beautiful, smooth stop-motion animation with vibrant sets and detailed props. Although a very limited amount of locations or set pieces are used, the team have structured each scene with intricate eyes for movement and have given everything a soul, a life. The camera work is brilliantly simple yet complex when you really think about what is happening behind the camera. Facial expressions are handled with expertise and are extremely fluid. Every little detail matters, and this film is filled with them.
Underneath the impeccable animation, is a meaningful story. It deals with a deep and rare disorder called The Fregoli Delusion, which, in simple terms, is where an individual sees everyone as the same person. This explains why only Noonan was cast for the extras and people the main protagonist, Michael, interacts with. Opening with an ‘overture’ of dialogue, all voiced by Noonan, it drops you straight into a world where, through Michael’s eyes, everyone is the same. There are no exceptions. Until his stay at the fictional Fregoli Hotel, where he meets a young lady named Lisa. It’s here that he starts to wonder, maybe some people are different. Using heartfelt comedy and emotional torment, Kaufman delivers strikingly in his screenplay and carefully presents to us how filmmaking should be handled.
The voice acting in this film is racing with energy and strength. A staggering performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa. After her role in The Hateful Eight, Leigh had to keep the bar raised high and she absolutely has, delightfully. Thewlis is perfect as Michael and serves the character well, very realistic and believable. Noonan voices so many strange yet wonderful characters that it’s hard to keep track, but does a terrific job with ease. Although it’s a little tricky to get used to for the first 20 minutes or so, I think his talent really shines.
Original music by Carter Burwell is beautifully woven into this tragic story with exceptional skill. Using subtle string arrangements handled with love and care, resulting in a great overall tone for the film. The sound department also did a splendid job with making all of the visuals pop and come to life, again, every little detail is there, even if you don’t notice it.
Now, just because this is an animated film, don’t be mistaken. It has some scenes of sexual behaviour and nudity. But even these scenes are handled with major care and are just as entertaining to watch, if only for the animation.
Although I heavily enjoyed this film for its animation and voice acting, I did feel like the film could have had a more unique end. Also, it finished with me wanting more. Which isn’t a bad thing, it’s actually a good thing. However, just 15 minutes more could have satisfied me nicely.
My verdict; Anomalisa is possibly the best animated feature this decade, and features 3 stellar performances by Thewlis, Leigh and Noonan. It deserves many awards and should definitely be hailed as one of the most human films ever made. A must-watch anomaly.
Anomalisa – ★★★★ (8/10)