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Review: Anomalisa

Anomalisa-review

— by RON WILKINSON —

Although the medium will surprise many viewers, its use, combined with the presence of only three voices, focuses the viewer on the message. The exaggerated mechanical motion of the stop action accentuates the stultified gear train that Stone goes through during most of the 24 hours of the story.

When you see this emotional roller coaster you will immediately recognize the style of writer/director Charlie Kaufman (co-directed with Duke Johnson). Kaufman wrote this adaptation based on the play he wrote, and which was performed in 2005 with the same actors as are in this film. The dreamy, heartbreaking fantasy of having it all and realizing it is just a mirage is just as pungent as it was in Kaufman’s Oscar winning “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

“Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich” and even “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind” are there, too. All rolled into a few days in the life of Michael Stone.

Stone is voiced by David Thewlis, who manages to bring out every nuance of a man bewildered by a mysteriously numbing existence. He is a motivational speaker, the author of best-selling books, and quite famous in the customer service industry. It seems that in effectively teaching others to be something they are not (happy), he has inadvertently taught himself the same lesson. We do not have a back story on him, so we do not know if the world has dealt Stone a cruel blow of some kind or whether he is just a narcissistic jerk who is destined to be miserable. Either way, he is in for a surprise when he meets Lisa.

Jennifer Jason Leigh does a fantastic job with Lisa’s voice. Of course, it is a pleasure to hear her speaking like an actual woman, when all of the other voices in the film, except hers and Stone’s, male and female, are voiced by one person, Tom Noonan.

Having just brought an odd mechanical sex-toy of a woman as a Christmas gift for his son, Michael runs into Lisa. In a few hours she becomes the anomaly that changes Michael Stone’s life. Through her he seems to break free. He is going out into the world instead of living on room service. His hotel room, and the hotel itself, transform into his prison and she has the only key. She becomes his world, his wife and son “don’t exist, they are just THEM.”

As Michael’s world expands we all question our own self-imposed limits. The protection seems to have built up and up to the point where it has blocked out most of the rest of the world. As this visionary experience unfolds, we share his shock and his fear. He is no longer sure he can handle reality. Even so, he has to in order to keep Lisa.

Powerful music sound track and, of course, perfect stop action make “Anomalisa” a pleasure to watch from beginning to end.

Anomalisa-003

Rating: 8/10

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