Apart from writer-director Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa being animated from stop-motion puppetry, there is initially nothing too different about the film. But knowing Kaufman’s reputation for weird story-telling (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), that normalcy does not last for too long.
The film revolves customer service guru Michael Stone (David Thewlis) who is on a business trip and meets someone who changes his world view.
No, it doesn’t seem too intriguing and for a good half an hour the movie is unremarkable save for one thing – all the people that Stone interact with (including his wife and his son) sound like the same person (in this case, Tom Noonan) – until that is, he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who speaks with her own voice and thus is an anomaly in his life (hence the title).
Quite naturally, Stone is drawn to Lisa and sets about to get to know her (in every possible way, including biblically). But as always, the good things in life never last and Stone finds himself in a familiar dilemma again.
The message is clear — Stone preaches customer service as a process by which the company connects with its customers on a human level but Stone himself is unable to do so, unable to see humans as individuals but a subset of a collective whole that all come across to him as indistinct and uninteresting.
It’s a frightening concept that dawns upon the viewer only towards the end of the story and that is what makes the narrative so brilliant. The fact that puppets are used to emphasise this theme only makes the ideas more chilling.
As usual, Kaufman is able to take the bizarre aspects of real life and communicate vital human truths to a discerning audience. The fact that Anomalisa was funded by a Kickstarter campaign and thus free from studio interference only ensures its place as one of the best films of 2015, if not the best.