Hey, check it out! At long last, I don’t have to put down a disclaimer! Wow, was that annoying for anyone else as much as it was for me?
Anywho, the moment I saw this trailer I got hyped. Claymation, stop-motion animation, I eat that shit up. I think the best part about it was that it wasn’t a kid’s movie, but meant for adults. It looked like an uplifting story, a little bit of comedy thrown in, even a unique look for a stop-motion movie, it looked right up my alley. Sadly, the movie took some time to reach my end of the Arclight neighborhood, so I had some serious waiting to do. Well finally it showed up after all this time. Sadly, it’s now 2016 and I knew I couldn’t in all fairness add it to any top lists, but I couldn’t just blow it off either. This is my honest opinion of ANOMALISA!
The story follows an older man named Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), an accomplished and respected writer and family man. He is visiting Cincinnati to give a speech that pertains to his book and the subject matter the next day, but Michael doesn’t seem very enthused. In fact, his mind seems to be on other things. Chief among them is a failed relationship ten years ago to a woman that he walked out on. He gives her a call and tries to patch things up and even get intimate, but his advances only drive her away, but not before we learn that he’s disinterested in pretty much every aspect of his life, including his wife and son. He goes back to his room but begins to hear a voice. A particular voice that gets him excited. He discovers the voice belongs to a seemingly unremarkable woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), and soon begins an awakening for him and his perspective on his life might change.
Um… yeah, jeez, has anyone seen that one poster that just worships this movie? “One of those rare perfect films.” WOW, guys, that’s a lot of high praise for such a flawed movie.
Alright, let me just start with what I liked. There’s a reason why the animation looked unique, and I didn’t know this before going in, the characters were made from a 3D printer. Yeah, that’s pretty cool, right? Kinda surprised it took this long to jump on that idea for Hollywood and stop-motion animation in general, but hey, we got it. And let me tell you, the animation is GORGEOUS. Holy god, it’s so wonderful to look at. I might be very aware that it’s a stop-motion story, but like watching claymation, it’s not any more or less distracting with 3D printed puppets.
Another really interesting idea is how every character in the movie is voiced by one guy, Tom Noonan. With the exception of Michael himself and Lisa, every character sounds the same and there’s plenty of room for fun interpretation as to why this is. My take is that because Michael is so bored of his life, everything just sounds like static. Everyone sounds the same because he doesn’t care about them (there’s a bit of confused irony that I’ll tackle later), and only Lisa has a different voice because he views her as special. Who knows if someone else has a different opinion on this, but it’s a lot of fun to speculate.
But now we have to get to the rest of my opinion… which isn’t holding a high regard for this film.
Alright, at first, Michael is written to be a standard, run-of-the-mill kind of guy. Stranger holds your hand as it lands because he’s afraid of flying? He reacts like a normal guy does; not overly bothered. When customer service people go on and on about their work or stuff, he gets annoyed, but doesn’t get too rude, at least no more rude than anyone else would. So far, I’m on board with this character. A bit of a slow start, but whatever. There’s a pay off, right? Well, we learn that Michael is holding on to a ten year old letter written to him from a former flame that he just walked out on. Guess what, he goes in his hotel room and one of the first things he does is call that same flame. But look how “good” this gets: these two haven’t spoken in ten years. But wait, it gets even “better.” He acts like they just spoke the other day, but she’s all like, “yeah, this is weird.” They get together for a drink and he basically proposes sex to her like it’s okay. BUT WAIT, it’s gets even BETTER! He has no explanation as to why he called her after ten years with a family of his own and even admits that he thinks he has psychological problems! This woman rightfully gets so freaked out that she storms away.
Can you see the problem that I have with this story now? Michael is an incredibly unlikable character. It would be one thing if he was giving some reason, that his behavior has some rhyme or reason to it, but… there isn’t. There’s no justification for it and the film is basically saying that it’s okay… and it’s not okay to me. Even once he’s gotten Lisa alone in his room, he’s constantly pressuring her to do things that she’s not comfortable with. Singing, having sex, it’s really uncomfortable to watch. I was asked by my co-workers. “do they have weird puppet sex?” I was kind of thrown off by the question because… it wasn’t “weird.” It was damn near sick! Ten seconds before they start having sex, she’s all like, “I’m not ready to have sex.” He says, “that’s alright, let’s just lay here and talk.” Five seconds later, he’s feeling her up. SERIOUSLY, I know situations like this happen all the time, but by the grace of God, this movie gave NO warning that this was the direction the story would go. You would NOT guess this scene would happen from watching the trailer. I make it sound like someone gets raped on screen, no, that doesn’t happen. But in the name of Zeus’ butt-hole, it’s uncomfortable as all hell.
Matters only get worse when the next morning he decides he wants to leave his wife and abandon his son for Lisa. Just like that. After probably less than twelve hours of knowing her, he’s in love. Disney films give a more obvious passage of time better than this film. But of course, as they’re eating breakfast, he starts complaining about her eating habits and all of a sudden, her voice starts to shift from being unique, to transitioning to sound like everyone else. This was actually an interesting idea, that because he discovered that Lisa isn’t as perfect as he thought, she’s becoming boring to him. But again, if the likability for these characters was reversed, I would be more invested. I’m not.
For a film that was hailed as the “most human film of the year” this movie felt incredibly lifeless. It was even to the point where I questioned why this movie was stop-motion at all. I bet it would have been cheaper to make it live-action, but what do I know? Maybe this one went WAY over my head, but what film was everyone else watching? Where is that thought-provoking, mind-warping, insane-f0r-all-the-right-reasons movie that all the critics are squawking about?
I don’t know, I highly disagree with the critics on this one and was thoroughly disappointed.
2/5 on story
5/5 on animation