“… don’t watch it with your mom, I learned that one the hard way.”
Last night I finally got to see Charlie Kaufman’s new film Anomalisa, and I liked it. Anomalisa is a movie that is about a man, Michael Stone, who has become overwhelmed with the monotony of everyday life. That is until he hears something new in the hallway of his hotel. I’m not going to go into any more detail, because you should honestly just go and see this movie. Anomalisa is one of those movies that has to be experienced, and it’s not too long of a commitment either, only clocking in at 1 hour and 30 minutes. And hey, even if the little plot synopsis I gave doesn’t interest you, you should see this movie for the animation alone. Anomalisa uses stop motion animation and it is the best I have seen in years. That along with the beautiful lighting, and gorgeous cinematography. I won’t lie to you, I was unfortunately a little disappointed with this movie, but my opinion on that will be laden with spoilers so I will discuss it later. Do yourself a favour and watch Anomalisa. Just don’t watch it with your mom, I learned that one the hard way.
FROM HERE ON OUT THERE WILL BE HEAVY ANOMALISA SPOILERS. IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE MOVIE, DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND WATCH IT FIRST. AS ALWYAS, MY SCORE WILL BE AT THE BOTTOM.
*Just a side note. I’m going to be talking about what the movie means to me in this portion of the review. My word is not the end all be all of this movie, so if you got something different from your viewing experience than neither of us are wrong. Art has to be experienced, and like I said in my review for the Voices, everyone experiences everything differently.
So like I mentioned, I was a little disappointed by the movie. That’s honestly because I felt it lacked depth. Maybe that’s because I’m used to walking away from Charlie Kaufman movies with a pit in my stomach, but Anomalisa didn’t leave much of an impact on me at all. So when Anomalisa starts, you will hear that every single person except for the main character has the same voice. This was getting annoying for me by the time Michael got to his hotel and was calling people on his room phone. I thought to myself that the only way it would make sense, is if it is played off that nobody in the world matters to him except for Lisa (who we have yet to be introduced to). And that does happen in a sense. Michael then has a breakdown over drinks with an old love, and he declares that he has a mental illness (or something along those lines). Originally I figured that he was suffering from depression, because a lot of the signs shown point to that, and a few of the signs I can personally relate to. But something later on tells me it might be something else. Anyway, Michael goes to a sex shop and asks for a toy for his son’s birthday (I guess it was because he was drunk, but it was almost like he pays no mind to his surroundings). He sees an antique Japanese wind up mannequin that he eventually buys for his son. I’m not sure the meaning of the toy, but I have ideas that I will discuss later. Anyway, He goes back to his hotel and takes a shower. When he gets out of the shower, he looks in the mirror and his face starts to glitch. Almost like he is a robot on the fritz. He then goes to remove the bottom part of his face (which comes off because of the design of the puppets used in the film) but is stopped when he finally hears something in the hallway. A different voice. This is probably half way through the movie and the story is just beginning. That is one issue I had with Anomalisa, it took too long to get where it was going. Anyway, he meets up with the voice (who is Lisa) and her friend, and eventually gets Lisa back to his place. What then happens is one of the creepiest, most awkward scenes in film history. It starts with Michael seeing an injury on Lisa’s face, and asking if he could kiss it. This then evolves into Michael listening to Lisa sing ‘Girls just want to have fun’ both in English and Spanish. That part I understand, because he is for the first time hearing a different voice, so he wants to keep hearing it. Then the sex starts. This is why I said not to see this movie with your mom. Anomalisa has one of the realest, most graphic sex scenes I have seen in a movie that played in theatres. I guess they get away with it because it was puppets, but boy they didn’t cut anything out. The worst part was probably when Michael was going down on Lisa, because we got a close up shot of Michaels face, as well as the voice actor (David Thewlis) making disgusting slopping noises right into his microphone. This sex scene lasts for probably 5 or so minutes, but it feels like an eternity. I don’t dislike the sex scene because it was graphic, I dislike it because it added nothing to the story. So at this point, we still have very little story to go off of and the movie is probably close to two thirds done. And something else about Anomalisa, I can’t sympathize for the main character because he is married. He is married and he has a kid and he is going around town trying to sleep with women (successfully sleeping with one woman, but he absolutely tried to sleep with his old girlfriend from before). I understand that the character of Michael is flawed, because he can’t find enjoyment in his life. I also understand that people should try to be as happy as they can in their life. But that dude needs to grow the fuck up. If he just had a wife it would be one thing, but he has a son. As someone who comes from a family with only one parent, that shit never gets easier. And he wants to abandon his wife and son like that because he is bored? Fuck that. So I couldn’t really sympathize with the character during this movie.
Anyway, after the sex scene. There is a scene where Michael wakes up and is called down to the hotel managers office. Here is where the movie gets interesting. The manager confesses his love for Michael and says that he can’t be with Lisa. Michael runs back up to his room, and grabs Lisa along the way. I almost forgot to mention, as he is running up the stairs to his room, his face finally falls off. Finally, a pay off. He gets too his room with Lisa and says that the manager told him that everyone is one person, and that him and Lisa are the only two unique people in the world. This is the second problem I got from the movie, I didn’t hear the manager say that, so i was left scratching my head when Michael stated that point. Maybe I just have to watch the scene again (which I will because I feel that I have to watch the whole movie again). So Michael and Lisa are cowering in Michael’s hotel room with what sounds like hundreds of people (all with the same voice) banging on the door, calling for Michael. Then Michael wakes up. This is where the movie kind of lost me. The most interesting part of the movie so far, and a pay off to his face glitching out in the bathroom, and it was all a dream? I would be okay with that If the movie had a better payoff. Spoiler alert: it does not. So Michael and Lisa sit down for breakfast and then out of fucking nowhere Michael starts getting mad at Lisa for little ticks like hitting her teeth with her fork, or talking with her mouth full. Again, this could be attributed to depression (change of attitude [again I can relate]), but I still think it might be something else. And then it happens. Michael hears Lisa’s voice slowly start to shift into the voice he hears for every other person in the world. Him getting upset with her means she is not special in his eyes anymore. I said it could be depression that Michael has, or something else. Well that something else is either: Bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The biggest indicator for me is during Michael’s speech right after the breakfast scene. He absolutely breaks down, one second being sad because he has no more tears to cry, the next second being mad because the US president is turning everyone into Nazis (I guess?), and then the next second going back to reading his script. Automatically when I saw that I thought Bipolar disorder. There is being upset because the world as you know it is crashing down (Michael no longer hearing Lisa’s voice), but what Michael did was on an entirely different spectrum. So like I said, when I saw the speech I assumed Michael was bipolar. But then I thought back to the scene in the bathroom. Michael was staring into the mirror and his face was fucking up. That’s when i thought it would be possible for Michael to also has schizophrenia. He doesn’t really show many other signs throughout the movie, but honestly I’m trying to rationalize that bathroom scene. So the movie sees Michael return home to his family, and his son unwraps his present of the wind up mannequin. Michael is then taken off guard because his wife arranged a surprise part for him. One of the more touching scenes in the movie is when Michael says about the party “who are these people? I don’t know any of these people”. We get a look around the room and see faces that are identical to one another staring back at Michael all smiling. Michael’s son winds up the mannequin and it starts singing a song. I’m not sure what the song is called, I only know that this voice is different for Michael. It’s not the same voice that everything else has. But he pays no mind to it. There is then a voiceover of the “boring” voice reading a letter that was written to Michael. This is reminiscent to the first scene of the movie where, while on a plane, Michael pulls out a letter and starts to read it. The letter is from a previous girlfriend, and it reads in the same voice as everything else. Anyway, the letter at the end starts off in the same voice, but then it is revealed to be Lisa and the voice starts to change. The voice doesn’t change for Michael, it never will. That part of Michael’s life is ruined much like every other part. But for the audience, the voice of the letter changes. We see Lisa in a car with her friend, her friend looks over and she has a different face. This is the next reveal of the movie. Michael doesn’t just think people sound alike, they all look alike too. To him, everyone is exactly the same. I can only assume that the letter at the beginning of the movie was from another Lisa, from a different time. Or maybe it was from a time before Michael started to think everything was the same.
So the reason I was disappointed with Anomalisa is because, like I mentioned before, it lacked depth. By that I mean, the movie was I guess about a guy who is so bored with life that everyone looks and sounds the same. That was it. That is very light for an Andy Kaufman movie. Not only that, but I have seen the story be tackled before, in an episode of South Park. Now it’s not an insult that I’m comparing Anomalisa to South Park, because South Park is a brilliantly written show. In the episode I am talking about, Stan turns 10 (I think) and everything to him then starts to sound like shit. Literally, it sounds like someone is shitting. He goes to a movie theatre with his friends and a trailer plays. Stan hears a bunch of shit noises, but he looks over at his friends and they seem to be enjoying it. Then it evolves into Stan deciding that he needs new friends, because he thinks his old ones sound like shit. He attributes this to getting old, but if I remember correctly (It’s been a while since I have seen the episode), it is about Stan becoming cynical. Thinking that he must mature with age, and therefore making the distinct change in his head from things he used to find funny, to shit noises. That is about as deep as Anomalisa got. It’s not that I didn’t like Anomalisa, it’s just that I felt that it was lighter than it needed to be. I also felt that there was no real ending to the movie. It kind of just stopped. I guess that’s because throughout the movie, I failed to really see an arc. Either character, or story. Michael ends the movie the same way he begins it. Except one more person has now faded into the boring abyss. I didn’t expect a happy ending, I just would have liked to see a more complete one.
Overall Anomalisa was an interesting movie to say the least. Though I feel it lacked story depth and that the story itself took too long to present itself, I did enjoy myself while watching it.
I give Anomalisa a B