The reaction to Kaufman’s Anomalisa is the closest mirror I’ve found to how many of us feel in this current moment. To describe Anomalisa as a stop-motion film would be a drastic understatement of its grandeur. I would say Anomalisa is the collection of empty moments in our day to day, when we search for purpose in our work and question our past decisions.

Directed by Charlie Kaufman, Anomalisa tells the story of a customer service expert named Michael, who has a book promotion at a convention in Cincanetti, Ohio. The film is largely shown through the eyes of Michael, as he perceives everyone around him to have the same voice and face. While in Cinacenetti, he meets up with an old flame, who he left without explanation many years ago. While in the shower, he hears the voice of a woman, who sounds different from everyone else in the film. He finds that the voice belongs to a girl named Lisa, who is attending his convention and staying on the same hotel floor as him. Michael and Lisa develop a fast-paced relationship, which ultimately crumbles.

Although the entirety of Anomalisa is composed of animated figures, their behavior mimicking real life is stunning. As the film goes on, you forget that the characters are puppets, especially during an unnervingly lengthy sex scene between Michael and Lisa. Like most of Kaufman’s films, Synecdoche, New York especially, Anomalisa feels completely original. Anomalisa was originally presented as an “audio play,” as actors performed their lines while composer Carter Burwell conducted live sound effects. The role of the puppets in Anomalisa remind me of the animations in Netflix’s Midnight Gospel. They are simply there as eye-candy, while most of the subtext takes place in the audio and dialogue, as opposed to the visuals. 

Michael, the protagonist of the film, has trouble being happy and facing himself. He has an easy time judging others, but is often oblivious to his blind spots. This becomes painfully clear when he meets up with an old flame and tries to get her to come back to his room without reading the situation, in which it is painfully obvious how uncomfortable she is. Throughout the film, we root for Michael’s success, although he disappoints almost every time. His loneliness plagues the film and his experiences, as we leave the film wondering about our own.

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