Film Review : Anomalisa (2015)

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IMDB Score – 7.3

Rotten Tomato Score – 92%

Metacritic Score – 88%

Directed By – Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson

Starring – David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Tom Noonan

A man crippled by the mundanity of his life experiences something out of the ordinary.

Well, now I’m depressed.

I’ve always been perplexed and intrigued by the work of Charlie Kaufman. I always thought he was able to get down to the reality of what makes us human and what drives our emotions. I didn’t understand Synecdoche, New York but actually purchased a DVD of it in order to dive into it more. I have yet to do that. I’ve seen Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind once each and while I found each of them incredibly daring and inventive, there has always been something holding me back from repeat viewings. Anomalisa will most likely join that group as I honestly don’t feel a need to see it again even though I took a lot away from it. It’s a polarizing film but ultimately a very important one.

I’ve struggled with depression and issues with apathy my whole life so the aspect of the film where every looks exactly alike and sounds exactly the same hit a chord. The use of Tom Noonan’s voice for every single character besides the main two was a brilliant move from the get go but adding the fantastic Tom Noonan to play that part was just wonderful to me. He was able to really sell each and every person as a mundane boring entity who almost attack Michael Stone with the challenge of remaining engaged and interested. Have we not all felt like that at one point or another? How many conversations do we have where we completely forget afterwards because of how routine and robotic they are? I felt the mans pain. I also think that part of the reason he was so out of touch with life is because of how selfish he was. This is something I can relate to and is the main culprit for making me feel a bit shitty after the viewing. Michael is battling himself so much that every person he comes in contact with is at the mercy of his own emotions. It’s something I’ve done for years as I try to figure out my purpose and role in life. It’s not fair to others to constantly have to hold the hand of somebody who has no idea what they want out of life. I thought the film hit that theme perfectly, honestly, and without holding anything back. It may be a reason why I feel shitty but it’s also a great takeaway from a film. I like feeling something tangible after seeing a film.

The film is also extremely intimate. We’re witnessing some very real and very personal experiences in this film. It doesn’t surprise me that the most intense and intimate moments in this film are when either one of the characters, and also both at the same time, are literally stripping away the walls we keep up to protect ourselves. The film uses the bare body a lot to kind of show how fragile and private some people are. The sex scene in the film was almost too realistic to watch. I felt like I really didn’t have a place to be there with these two characters, which is kind of funny considering they were animated. It really was a job well done by both directors to portray such a moment like that in the style in which they did.

I’m not sure how I feel about the ending, which was almost as bleak as the entire film, but it’s something that left a lasting impression. Do some people have a special ability to attach themselves to other people and never lose interest or love, or do people have exciting and wild first encounters that die out emotionally and we’re left with routine and robotic relationships? It kind of reminds me of a quote from the Fincher film Zodiac. Robert Graysmith’s obsession had gone down an unstoppable path and his wife has had enough. She says it was basically “a first date that never ended”. That quote stuck with me. I think some people struggle with maintaining the passion and exciting feelings they have when they first meet somebody who stimulates them. Those feelings fade and they’re constantly trying to either recapture them or find meaning in something else. My issues are a bit different than that but I feel it’s the main theme of Anomalisa and I couldn’t help but relate to them.

I’m still depressed though. A bleak film sometimes leaves bleak aftershocks. Yet it’s definitely a window into some of the less talked about but very real emotions that a large number of people deal with. I loved the honesty and intimacy  of the film and I hope that Charlie Kaufman doesn’t take eight more years to give us another film.

4.5/5

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