Charlie Kaufman makes weird films. With a list of credits that includes films such as “Being John Malkovich”, “Adaptation” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, his eccentricity is one of his defining virtues. However, in recent years, that same eccentricity has seemed to have gotten the better of him. And “Anomalisa” is so bizarre, so detached, that it is hard to find any emotional connection with it.
Made using simple stop-motion animation, the film tells the story of Michael Stone (voice of David Thewlis), a customer service guru attending a conference in Cincinnati. He is depressed. Everyone sounds the same. Literally, the voice of every character is Tom Noonan. Until he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). He has her talk to him and then sing. He falls in love. And then his world starts to collapse.
The animation has a home-charm feel to it and Michael’s story has some resonance about a world full of propriety yearning for something truly illuminating, but the tone is glacial. Michael is not a very likable guy. He cheats on his wife, he complains, he is rude, he panics easily. You don’t really care if he finds true love. At times, things are so cerebral, you can’t fathom what Kaufman and his crew are trying to convey.
Much like Kaufman’s “Synechdoche, New York”, “Anomalisa” is full of ideas, weirdness, minimalism and artistic flair, but it lacks heart and empathy. As much as the viewer wants to care, we are given no reason for doing so. We simply have interesting ideas as hollow as a greeting card.