Innovatively dissecting relationship and personality woes, Charlie Kaufman’s latest remains as distinctive as his best.Using painstakingly crafted stop-motion animation which left the 90 minute feature taking some 2 years to ‘shoot’ (with some days only yielding half a second of footage), Kaufman’s Anomalisa transcends its origins as one of his lauded stage plays, and avoids his original plans to turn it into an audio/radio play, and instead appears here as a remarkably realistic animation. That’s not where the novelty ends, though, as – in true Kaufman style – the voice narration of the entire cast, barring the two leads, is done by one single actor.Yes, Manhunter’s villain, Tom Noonan, lends his distinctive voice to every other character, man or woman; child or adult, with some attempted affected lighter, huskier or accented voices on offer, but all bearing the same familiar Noonan undertones. It’s a bold attempt to aurally symbolise the lead character’s struggle through monotony – hearing every single character, even right down to his own son, with the same semi-monotone drone, is supposed to show how isolated he feels, and further spotlight the one solitary voice in this environment that sounds different.
For many, Anomalisa’s innovative techniques and ambitious storytelling ring true as the pinnacle of pioneering filmmaking from one of the most daring auteurs out there, delivering an acute study of both relationship and self; an honest look at our flaws and failings opened up for all the world to see.
Despite its innovative filmmaking approach, Anomalisa can't stand up alongside Kaufman's best.
Unfortunately, the effect is clearly not universal on all, and some may find the whole endeavour rather monotonous in its very end result, plodding along for almost half the runtime with Noonan (in-)affecting women’s voices gets tedious, whilst the David Thewlis-voiced protagonist is just not convincingly sympathetic, making it an arduous task to wait for Jennifer Jason Leigh’s counterpart to appear and save the day, something which is an undeniable uphill struggle (despite an admittedly imaginatively honest sex scene) in this tawdry exercise in alternative filmmaking. Kaufman’s had loftier ideals than this; aspired to greater things than this kind of avant garde navel-gazing, and unfortunately – beyond its technical merits – Anomalisa will, at least for some, never stand alongside his career best.
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