by George Wolf
With Anomalisa, Charlie Kaufman’s proposed animated short becomes a wondrous feature, utilizing a powerful subtlety to explore the challenge and the mystery of human connection.
Customer service specialist Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) is wilting under the weight of the mundane. Though he preaches about finding the individuality in each customer, he views each person he comes in contact with as interchangeable, hearing the same voice (the great Tom Noonan) each time anyone else speaks.
When Micheal flies to Cincinnati for a conference presentation, his rut continues until he encounters Lisa (Jennifer Jason-Leigh), who is staying on the same floor of his hotel. Though Lisa has traveled from Akron to hear Michael speak, it is Michael who is roused by the sound of a new voice – and by the possibility of rediscovering the joy in life.
Kaufman, who wrote the screenplay and co-directs with Duke Johnson, has created a kickstarter-funded marvel of complex simplicity. It envelopes you slowly, on an almost subliminal level, rendering Michael a sympathetic character as a simple matter of course. In doing so, the film touches on emotions so universal you may not even realize how loudly it is speaking to you.
There is a sly wit at work here as well. Michael checks in to the Fregoli hotel, a direct nod to the rare disorder in which one believes many different people are, in fact, one person in disguise. His trip down to meet the hotel manager is also a sarcastic hoot.
At times odd and imaginative, romantic and heartbreaking, Anomalisa ultimately feels like a gentle reminder about how much we need each other.