Anomalisa (2015)

casey Was it transcendent for you? One of the poster quotes said it was transcendent.

brooke Hmmm… I wouldn’t call it “transcendent”, nor would I call it “the most human movie of the year” as someone else claimed.
What’s the opposite of transcendent?

casey Scendent?

brooke Yes. I found the film to be scendent.

casey I’m normally a fan of director Charlie Kaufman’s weirdness, especially in Being John Malkovich and Adaptation. And I actually liked the weird stuff in Anomalisa, too. I just didn’t love the actual movie.

brooke I love Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, but I hated Adaptation, so…
I didn’t dislike Anomalisa as strongly as I disliked Adaptation, but I definitely didn’t see whatever great stuff I was supposed to see.

casey I’ll ignore your flagrant Adaptation bashing for now. Although I didn’t love Eternal Sunshine…

brooke And one day we’ll write about that and I can address that moment where Tom Wilkinson doesn’t have a face. But for now, we’re on Anomalisa. It’s about a stop-motion-animated puppet man named Michael Stone, (voiced by David Thewlis), an author and motivational speaker on a business trip to Cincinnati. He’s obviously dealing with major personal issues, and apparently hoping to fill the void with some kind of real connection…

casey The visuals were really interesting, especially in the first half hour as Michael goes through the airport, makes small talk with a cabbie, checks into his hotel, etc. It’s so ordinary and banal, but the fact that it’s all stop-motion puppetry brings an almost hyper real quality that highlights how strange the little social interactions we go through can be.

brooke Watching Michael get frustrated with all the little details of a business trip was great, but I felt like the movie didn’t have anywhere to go. The only hint that something strange is going on is the fact that everyone else is voiced by Tom Noonan.
Literally, his IMDb credit is “Everyone else”
And it’s not like Hank Azaria voicing different Simpsons characters–the voice isexactly the same
Men and women alike.

casey It took me a few minutes to notice that, and it gradually gives the movie’s apparent normality a weird edge. It’s an interesting device: We’re seeing the world from Michael’s perspective, it soon becomes clear that he’s very lonely and depressed, and the uniform voices illustrate that.

brooke That’s a great point. If you don’t get it from the voices, then you definitely get it near the end of the movie when he arrives home to find some friends at his house, and he seems genuinely confused, asking his wife “Who are these people? I don’t know these people.”

casey It’s uncanny and interesting and a little sad.

brooke Anyway, back to the plot: he’s wading through this monotony when he hears a new voice, belonging to the titular Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh).

casey Who’s actually visiting to hear Michael speak the next day! Classic meet cute.

brooke But we learn that she carries a host of her own emotional issues.

casey Once they met the movie started to lose me. Michael awkwardly chats up the shy Lisa, invites her to his room, and initiates an even more awkward hook up (there is puppet nudity), but I never felt like Michael was doing anything but using her. He seemed either a) in profound need of professional help or b) selfish beyond measure

brooke If you’re not already convinced that Michael is selfish, you also get to watch his nightmare where he has to run from a bunch of loving admirers.

casey And in fairness, I don’t think the movie necessarily wants us to like him, but I think we are meant to identify with the characters’ loneliness. That’s pretty much Kaufman’s M.O., right? But most of the movie happens over just a few hours in the hotel—it all felt so quick that it never felt particularly real to me. It’s kind of a echo of Eternal Sunshine’s “falling in and out of love” theme, but it didn’t resonate.

brooke In this case he falls out of love with Lisa because she talks while she’s chewing, I guess? But there was no love to begin with.

casey And maybe that’s the point, too: he’s so messed up that he mistakes their connection for something deeper than it is. But again, I never got a sense that the movie was saying something new or interesting about modernity and the human experience.

brooke To steal what my friend Ivy told me, it felt like “White Male Problems: The Movie”.
Like, oh no, Michael has it so hard as a best-selling author

casey hey I resemble that remark. I’m a white male and his problems ain’t my problems.

brooke Phew
but I guess I mean that Michael’s problems are the main focus of the movie. He acts like he has minor entitlement or depression issues, but he also hallucinates about the corners of his reality peeling away.
He’s avoiding the deeper, underlying problems
I don’t know. I feel like I was supposed to understand more, but the movie just wasn’t enjoyable beyond those banal moments of frustration in the beginning of the film

casey On the other hand, there were some great running gags about the Cincinnati Zoo and chili.

brooke Yeah. Anomalisa didn’t feel like a huge waste of time, but I wouldn’t see it again

casey I wanted to like it. I like the idea of it, and the general aesthetic…just not the way it was told.

brooke Sounds about right.
Any final thoughts?

casey Check out the Cincinnati zoo! It’s zoo-sized and will only take an afternoon.

brooke Try the chili!


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