By Mark Saldana
Rating: 4 (Out of 4 Stars)
One of the most realistic movies of the year actually is somewhat artificially made. Written by Charlie Kaufman (writer of Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), based on his play, and directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson, Anomalisa is an extraordinary stop motion animation film that has incredible looking sets and props, and slightly robotic, puppet-like characters. I actually do not mean this as an insult or negative, though. The characters are actually rather impressive and the skillful work of the directors and crew make this film look absolutely incredible.
The thing, however, that really stands out about this film is the beautiful script that Kaufman has written. His writing, the performances of the minimal voice cast, and the work of the filmmakers actually transcend the artificial aesthetics of the medium and make the story and characters feel more real than dozens of live action films out there.
David Thewlis stars as Michael Stone, a middle-aged. self-help author going through a crisis. He has recently decided to leave his wife and son, as he feels stagnant in his relationship and life. While on a business trip in Cincinatti, Ohio, Stone meets the unique, but awkwardly shy Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Stone becomes instantly smitten with her, and gets to know her over the course of the evening. Stone believes that he may have found the one missing piece from his life and believes she will elevate him from his depressed existence.
Kaufman, who is known for his quirky and eccentric style, definitely offers more of this to his film. The jokes are sometimes bizarre, but are always funny. Those who absolutely adore his idiosyncratic and unusual sense of humor will certainly love this film. Even though his film is sort of peculiar at times doesn’t mean it doesn’t have relevance to real human themes. Anyone, who knows what it is like to go through a relationship and all of its stages, including the difficult times when romance fizzles, will definitely relate to what Stone experiences in the film. Even life as a whole can lose some of its luster when complacency kicks in. These are the main themes Kaufman addresses through the Stone character. Life can be fresh and exciting, but eventually, what is new cannot stay new forever.
Thewlis, who I think sounds remarkably like Pierce Brosnan here, delivers some of the best voice work I have ever heard in an animated film. He has a remarkable talent for expressing sadness, despair, depression and renewed joy only using his vocal range. Jennifer Jason Leigh also shines as the clumsy, sheepish, but truly lovable Lisa. She too beautifully uses her voice, exercising the right awkward pauses to bring to life a character really down on herself, but still has some genuine joy and glee deep inside. Her performance actually sounds like she is channeling Holly Hunter. As for the rest of the characters, they are portrayed by one actor only. That actor is Tom Noonan. I won’t elaborate exactly why Noonan plays the remainder of the characters in the movie because that actually is an important aspect of the story.
I have to say that I am a little disappointed that Inside Out won the Golden Globe over this film, because I feel Anomalisa is the better film. To be completely fair, I still haven’t seen one more film of the Golden Globes nominees (The Peanuts Movie), but it will really have to offer me something amazing for me to pick it as my favorite animated film of 2015 over this one. I must highly recommend Anomalisa because, at this time, I feel it is not only the best animated film I have seen for 2015, but it is also one of the best films of the year. I must offer a warning, though. Even though this movie is an animated film, it is not appropriate for children. The movie earns it MPAA R-rating for strong sexual content, graphic nudity, and language. Adults shouldn’t let this warning deter them from seeing this movie because it is truly outstanding in so many ways.