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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Friday, August 26, 2016

Movie Review - Anomalisa

Anomalisa (2015)
Featuring the vocal talents of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan
Directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman

Pretentiousness usually doesn't bode well for me when it comes to movies.  Flicks that wear their importance or deeply philosophical spoutings on their sleeve typically are a bit of a turn off...which is why it's all the more surprising that I enjoyed the Charlie Kaufman-penned and co-directed stop-motion animated film Anomalisa because it's ALL about pretentiously philosophical notions.  Somehow, though, the animation both lessens the heftiness yet strengthens the concepts in an admittedly oddly oxymoronic way.

On a business trip to Cincinnati, married customer service specialist Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) finds himself in a bit of a rut.  He's bored with the cacophonous drone of life where everyday feels the same, everyone looks the same, and everyone talks the same.  After a meeting with an ex at the hotel bar goes sour, Michael slumps back to his room only to hear the unique voice of a woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) that sounds different than everyone else he's encountered thus far on the trip.  (You see, everyone other than Michael and Lisa is voiced by Tom Noonan in order to convey the drone of life.)  Lisa invigorates Michael as they spend an evening together getting to know one another with Michael beginning to see life in a completely different light.

Story-wise, I must admit that I was taken aback at first.  I was befuddled as the movie began as to why every character other than Michael looked and sounded the same.  However, as the film progressed, I began to understand and appreciate Charlie Kaufman's purpose and I found that it was conveyed shockingly well.  There's no way possible that Kaufman could've made this film in a live action format, but animation allows his intriguing premise about monotony and lack of individualization to really shine.

And as for the animation, it's gorgeous.  The figures of Michael and Lisa are so vividly and realistically designed that I found myself watching the dvd extras to see how they were created -- something I don't often do.  Their movement is fluid and their heavy emotions are beautifully depicted.  Thewlis and Leigh also do a nice job of conveying their characters' dour and ebullient emotions, respectively.  Technically, you couldn't really ask for a more thoughtfully animated stop-motion film.

Anomalisa falters just a bit in that its slow pace sometimes grows a bit tedious.  By the film's end, I was wanting its short ninety-minute runtime to be about fifteen minutes shorter.  The oppressive monotony that Michael feels is mirrored in the way the film is presented which may be purposeful, but unfortunately ends things on a bit of a down note.  That said, I was captivated for most of the film, and while I will readily admit that this one will not suit everyone's tastes (which is de rigueur for Charlie Kaufman anyway) animation fans should check this one out solely for the wonderful work done by the talented artists.

The RyMickey Rating:  B

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