By Megan Bianco
My string of Oscar season movie reviews continues with Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa, one of the Best Animated Picture nominees. The cult screenwriter’s second film without directors Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry is completely animated through stop-motion puppetry. While the other nominees are the usual family blend of Pixar, Disney and Ghibli, Anomalisa has the distinction of being the first R-rated animated film to be nominated in the category.
Set over a 24-hour period in 2005 Cincinnati, Ohio, customer service expert Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is in town to give a lecture on his recently published book. While at his hotel, everyone around him appears to have the same face and voice. He continues to lose touch with reality until a young woman named Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is in town for the lecture, instantly grabs his attention.
Anomalisa is co-directed by Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Despite the Kaufman being responsible for such movies as Adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his collaboration with the stop-motion director is surprisingly his most linear and conventional. We can see possible inspiration and some similarities to Jonze’s own Her and Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation in Anomalisa, with the leads internally depressed in surreal settings. To some, the first half of the feature might be a little jarring, but the payoff by the end might be worth it, especially to Kaufman fans. And as a final warning, I should note that the R rating is appropriate for full-frontal puppet nudity, sex and adult language.