Essi Virtanen | Reporter
Friday, Jan. 15, 2015; 9 a.m.
Comedy does not get more human than this.
“Anomalisa”, released in St. Louis theaters today and directed by Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman, is a 90-minute psychological stop-motion animated journey into a middle-aged man’s mind where love, disconnection and numbness toward life overlap.
Kaufman, who also based the film off of a play which he wrote under the pseudonym Francis Fregoli, tells a story of Michael Stone (David Thewlis), an author who takes an overnight business trip to Cincinnati. The trip turns out to be a mental turmoil as the story progresses and Michael has awkward encounters with various characters including a taxi driver, a hotel clerk, a room-service worker and a waitress who all have different clothing and hairstyles but have the same eerie blank face.
Every character in the film appears and sounds exactly the same to Michael, all with the voice of actor Tom Noonan. These shared characteristics illustrate how Michael sees the people around him: all the same and uninteresting.
That is until a woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) brings a glimpse of light at the end of dark tunnel, which Michael’s mundane life has turned out to become.
“Anomalisa” is a humorous yet honest illustration of a depressed man’s perception of life and the people around him. It illustrates the disconnection a person can have with others and is told in a unique way using stop-motion animation. The animation is flawless, not only by the realistic set pieces and smooth camera movements, but the characters come to life in a captivating manner that would not be possible with real actors.
“Anomalisa” is Kaufman’s soulful cinematic search of the human mind that leaves the audience simultaneously struck with sadness and warmth, desperation and hope and beauty and reality. It leaves the audience pondering about life and what it means to be human, to ache, to be alive? By entailing so many themes but leaving so much open for interpretation, the film guarantees that every person in the theater will take something different away from it, and that is what makes it a truly precious cinematic masterpiece.