In the world of cinema, those who consistently deliver the kind of films that resist predictability are agonizingly rare.
Thank god for Charlie Kaufman.
Although Kaufman is more famously known for his writing, including credits for features like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind—huge boons for established directors like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry, respectively—Anomalisa firmly cements his capabilities as a director (as well as those of co-director Duke Johnson).
The story is an initially unusual choice for stop-motion. Unlike something as otherworldly as Coraline or the Nightmare Before Christmas, Anomalisa centers around the rather mundane problems of a writer as he prepares to give a speech on customer service.
However, the animation manages to feel necessary. Without revealing too many important details, the ability to reuse the same models for different characters is a critical component of the film’s narrative.
Rather than accentuating the fantastic, the meticulous attention to detail that went into rendering and moving the characters gives them naturalism and subtlety which not only transcends the uncanny valley, but also much of the wooden or exaggerated acting of many films out of Hollywood.
For instance, Trey Parker and Matt Stone demonstrated in Team America: World Police that there is potential for hilarious spectacle from two puppets having sex, but Anomalisa manages to create believable intimacy that is unfortunately absent in the majority of cinema.
That isn’t to ignore the film’s humor though. Kaufman’s somewhat surreal writing does lend some comedic charm, but it is largely vowice actor Tom Noonan’s exceedingly well paced and often politely impassive delivery that carries the most laughs—acting as the perfect counter to the more distant and dismissive tone of the protagonist, voiced by David Thewlis. Suffice it to say that Anomalisa is probably one of the funnier films of the past year.
While comparatively one of the least bizarre films under Kaufman’s belt, Anomalisa is still an incredibly unique experience, and deserves as blind a viewing as possible.