For years Charlie Kaufman has been one of the few people in Hollywood who has, time after time astounded us all with one ingenious project after another. Very few filmmakers have an imagination quite like the one he has nor do they have the ambition to actually go through with bold and daring ideas quite like he does. And his filmography is a reflection of this. Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche New York are all films that encapsulate these daring ideas together to create even daring pieces of art.
With Anomalisa though, Kaufman aims to do his most daring work yet, both on a technical level and an artistic one.
Written by Charlie Kaufman and co-directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson, Anomalisa follows the story of Michael Stone, an author that specializes in customer service, and a man who is unable to interact deeply with other people. His low sensitivity to excitement, and his lack of interest made him a man with a repetitive life on his own perspective. But, when he went on a business trip, he met a stranger – an extraordinary stranger, which slowly became a cure for his negative view on life that possibly will change his mundane life.
On one hand it’s hard not to appreciate the incredible craft that goes into making Anomalisa. It’s a stop-motion animation film that feels very real and human. More real than most live-action films, even. The sets create an uncannily realistic environment that feels substantive and it is easy to forget that you’re watching an animated film. And it’s just the little nuances and details that make the film so interesting to watch.
On the other hand however, Anomalisa is a film that has the tendency to leave you cold and for all the craft gone into making this film, the story just didn’t click with me. My problem with the film is mainly with how banal the narrative is, The film feels relentlessly downbeat and monotone but never really does anything apart from being just that. It presents us with a protagonist who has absolutely no characteristic that makes us sympathize with him and yet expects us to care for him.
Anomalisa is without doubt one of the most inventive and bold films to come out this year but fails to actually go beyond its technical prowess to create a film that’s actually moving. It’s a film that gets really depressing but fails to ever really explain why we should be depressed because there is never really enough to care about here.