The Fargo Theater on Broadway is well known for offering smaller films that don’t have a wide release. This month, one of their offerings is Anomalisa, an R-rated animated film directed and produced by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
Even though I’m typically a fan of Kaufman, this movie would have flown way under my radar if it hadn’t been recommended to be by a friend. After reading about it briefly online, I was still hesitant. I’m generally not a fan of stop motion. Something about the way clay characters squirm across the screen in their weird doll clothes with giant buttons always feels… creepy to me. The animation in Anomalisa, however, did not have that effect. All the body movements and facial expressions–which were accomplished using 3d printed parts–feel absolutely natural, so much so that it’s easy to forget that you’re watching an animated movie.
The movie follows a self-help book writer, Michael Stone, through two days in Cincinnati, where he is slated to give a speech about customer service. The visibly depressed Stone is in a loveless marriage, carries around an angry letter from a woman he hurt, and paces his hotel room floor practicing a speech he clearly has no interest in giving. His disenfranchisement with life is apparent early in the movie as he slogs through interactions with an eager-to-please bellhop and a taxi driver who loves Cincinnati a little too much. It quickly becomes apparent that every person in the movie’s world, both male and female, have the same face and are voiced by the same actor, Tom Noonan (Manhunter, Last Action Hero).
The movie, though slow-moving and taking place in only a handful of sets, never feels boring