Friday, January 22, 2016


Based on his play, Charlie Kaufman's stop-motion feature focuses on depressed self-help author (David Thewlis) in a Cincinnati hotel the night before the latest stop on his book tour. Alternatively charming and tedious, Anomalisa delivers a collection of mundane and awkward experiences and conversations highlighted by the author, who hears everyone he's ever met speaking in Tom Noonan's voice, meeting an insecure young woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) whose voice breaks the self-help guru out of his melancholy.

Centering a film around a lonely puppet with questionable sanity who hears the world in monotone makes for an unique film experience. That said, Anomalisa is a film I could never quite wrap my arms around and embrace. Kaufman and co-director Duke Johnson certainly tap into some real human emotion, but with the focus on the boredom, monotony, and depression of the life of our schmuck of a protaganist all Kaufman really has to explore is that same boredom, monotony, and depression with no end in sight. Dragging its way through several scenes, Anomalisa is a 90-minute film that often feels quite a bit longer.

Even with these complaints Anomalisa is certainly worth viewing as an impressive, if not always engaging, piece of filmmaking. It may not always work, but, as Kaufman is want to do, he does succeed in crafting a film around his unique voice. Hidden beneath the story, however, the filmmaker does have much to say about the nature of a man's relationship with himself, the world, and about the nature of fleeting love. The human condition certainly has plenty of the kinds of sequence Kaufman celebrates here, and, while realistic and honest, they are made no more interesting watching puppets play them out. Where the film embraces the absurd, such as its sex scene followed by our protagonist's nightmare vision, it transcends the monotony it otherwise too earnestly embraces for much of its running time.

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