Get up. Eat. Go to work. Eat. Play. Go home. Regardless of the order, the pattern is always the same. For Michael Stone, mundanity is like the rapture, one we are desperate to escape but are forever too late. Even with a wife and son by his side, Michael searches for a great escape, one we wish we could all take to rejuvenate the bleak lives in which we live.
In “Anomalisa”, we meet author Michael Stone (David Thewlis) 45 000 feet above the clouds on an airplane en route to Cincinnati airport. There, he will spend the weekend heralding a conference on the values and benefits of excellent Customer Service. Upon his arrival, Michael is shepherded amongst a herd of travellers, immediately surrounded by an ephemeral white noise of confused and belligerent tourists and locals. Searching for reprieve, he plugs his earphones in his ears to block out the noise, disappearing into a world of serenity, if only for a short time. Outside, he manages to flag down a cab driver, a burdening vocalist who evokes nothing but Cincinnatian patriotism, who takes him to his four star destination: the Fregoli Hotel. Eventually, fatigue drips heavy from his temple to his feet, thus he resolves his arduous journey with a visit to the lobby bar. Hours later, he appears, bewildered, in the doorway of Lisa Hesselman’s (Jennifer Jason Leigh) hotel room. Upon first glance, Michael is immediately attracted to Lisa. She is peculiar but he doesn’t know why, but he also doesn’t care why because she’s unlike the others, she’s different, and that’s all that matters. Perhaps it is her incessant self – depreciative attitude, or her blatant naivety, or her sordid meekness. Nonetheless, with Lisa by his side, life, for Michael, doesn’t seem so austere after all, or does it?
“Anomalisa”, written and directed by Charlie Kaufman, was adapted from a stage play of the same name that was also written and directed by Kaufman. The principle cast is small but significant with David Thewlis voicing the titular role, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa, and Tom Noonan as everyone else – literally. The film takes place over the course of a weekend in ideally two or three locations, the hotel being the central host to all things unusual. The animation is visually stunning, in that it’s almost human, which makes the story even more potent.
“The premise behind “Anomalisa” however, is dutifully honest, and simultaneously horrific.”
Kaufman does a fantastic job at mimicking the “real world” from the moment Michael lands in Cincinnati to the films denouement. Although the character’s with whom he interacts differs, the tone remains the same. With every interaction comes a spark of hope, the expectation for something extraordinary to happen, but after a while, we realize that nothing ever changes; that is, until Lisa. Before Lisa, Michael revelled in the tedious nuances of everyday life, but with her, living a life of docility doesn’t seem so horrible. Before Lisa, life was wrought with perpetual loneliness and disdain, but with her, he has a reason worth living. Lisa, for all intents and purposes, is wholly oblivious, and for that, she is infamously celebrated.
“Anomalisa” nevertheless, is poignant, metaphorically mirroring our world, without subtly. We feel the awkwardness with Michael, we feel his annoyance, and we feel his desperation to be extraordinary for the sake of sanity. His life, in part, reflects our own and this is both utterly satisfying and unnerving.