Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa' filled with longing and loneliness

Puppet characters dealing with monotony, isolation

Anomalisa. Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Starring David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan.
Rating: 8 (out of 10)

The brilliant Charlie Kaufman and animation guru Duke Johnson team up to direct this startlingly moving stop-motion film about monotony, isolation and our longing to connect.

Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) is a motivational speaker and author of “How May I Help You Help Them?” This stop on the speaking engagement is Cincinnati. He gets a bland tour of the city from his taxi driver before checking in to the Fregoli Hotel, where he gets the same monotonous greeting from the front desk clerk, and another from a hotel bellman.

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In fact, everyone – male and female, old and young – speaks in the same voice, including the son he has left back home and an ex-girlfriend, with whom he has a disastrous reunion in a hotel bar. (That’s Tom Noonan lending his voice to all the other characters.)

This is the way Michael sees the world around him: everyone is the same. He’s become accustomed to it, but his belief in this sameness has poisoned every relationship he has.

And then, briefly, Michael believes that he has met the one other person on the planet who isn’t pretending to be someone else, a shy fan named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

The two share a connection (yes, the puppets share an R-rated connection): Lisa is surprised by it; Michael is desperate to hold onto it.

But nothing is as it appears to be (the name of the hotel, for starters) which is unsurprising coming from Kaufman, the creator of such weirdness as Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.

Fun, no. Compelling, yes. Anomalisa is filled with more longing and palpable loneliness than many other live action films registered this year.  

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