By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a throwback to the Venice Film Festival. I saw this animated feature for the first time back in September.
I knew very little about Anomalisa before it was screened yet there was a definite buzz around the Venice circuit. It was the last ‘big’ film to be showcased at prime time 9am in early September and many journalists hung around to catch it.
Anomalisa isn’t your usual animation and it will definitely live long in the memory of the audiences – for one reason or certainly another…
Anomalisa stars the brilliant David Thewlis as Michael Stone who is crippled by the mundanity of his life. He then begins to experience something out of the ordinary. Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the love interest, Lisa, to Thewlis’ Michael.
Anomalisa begins with the standard business trip a company employee makes from time to time. Michael Stone flies into Cincinnati ready to deliver a motivational speech the next morning. Michael just wants to relax for the evening but the annoyances of life keep cropping up until the anomaly that is Lisa arrives in his life - this is where the film becomes compelling viewing.
Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman have written and directed an absolute gem here. It is such a simple, linear narrative that asks thought-provoking questions to make you evaluate your own life’s decisions. It’s so engaging and complex but Kaufman’s script never lets on. You’re submersed into this intricate plot without even knowing it.
David Thewlis is a diamond in his role. He has to convey everyday, unoriginal life with nothing but his voice. He makes his puppet doll so believable and relatable. Tom Noonan voices all the other characters that pop up in the film with the same monotone voice until Jennifer’s Lisa arrives on the scene. Jennifer and her leading lady role is a match made in heaven as she is just simply addictive. The audience completely attach themselves with Michael and Lisa’s brooding romance and we feel we are living their lives for the entire ninety minutes we’re in the theatre.
I cannot speak highly enough of this film. One for the awkward comedy lovers – there is a puppet love scene that will make you wince even more than you ever did at Team America. I can hear you all now… believe me it is golden.
The most admiring characteristic of the film is how Kaufman makes the puppets really emotive and connectable. It is actually frightful how accurate the story-telling is compared to real life. Michael Stone is having some kind of Fregoli delusion throughout, a syndrome which causes the sufferer to believe that different people are in fact a single person. Fregoli is also the name of the hotel Stone checks into and where he has a nightmare which is one of the film’s many highlights.
You’re sucked into this mundane and depressive world and it only lets you go when the credits are revealed. It takes you on this rollercoaster ride of emotions and spits you out like you’re just human number three billion. It hits every life nail on the head – an absolute joy of a film.
The one thing that really sums up Anomalisa at Venice was as the credits rolled up and critics began to leave; a reviewer commented “that is one of the most depressing films I have ever viewed… but I adored it”. For me personally, that opinion is bang on. It depicts life as being so dull and we are all the same person, but in fact - aren’t we lucky to actually live?
Cineroom’s Rating: 5 Stars
Anomalisa is released on 11th March 2016 in selected cinemas worldwide – certificate 15