Starring: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
Director: Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman
Running Time: 90 mins
Anomalisa is an American film about a middle-aged man who, tired with the repetitive and mundane nature of his life, has an extraordinary experience while staying at a luxury hotel in Cincinatti.
An animated film about a guy having a mid-life crisis in a hotel. Doesn’t sound like much, but Anomalisa is an amazing film. With a screenplay that keeps you completely invigorated in its bizarre yet unflinchingly fascinating story, very impressive voice performances and direction that creates an incredibly powerful and unsettling atmosphere, there’s a lot to praise here, because it’s simply a fantastic film.
Let’s start with what was by far the most impressive part of the whole film: the story. In a way, it’s at times a lot like American Beauty in a lot of its themes, regarding modern society and the mundainity of modern life, as well as the more satirical depressing tone of the first act. That aspect to the film is fascinating, but it’s not the thing that really makes this a really eye-catching watch, because we have seen that sort of thing before.
What’s most impressive is the direction that this story takes to delve into the deep psychological trauma that this man is suffering over the course of this hectic night in his life. He’s a lonely, frustrated man, and his burst of emotion when he begins to have new-found feelings for a woman he meets on the night is really powerful to watch.
Beyond that, however, the story of this film is always weird. Set amongst the corridors of a hotel at night, there’s a brilliantly uneasy tone that develops and grows as the film goes on that really makes you feel like you’re in a nightmare. It links in with the man’s emotional turmoil, but through the brilliant direction and some of the strangest world-building ideas I’ve ever come across, it’s tough to really know whether you’re just in a bad dream or not, in a way that eerily feels a lot like David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive.
The performances here are also absolutely fantastic. Tom Noonan, in a variety of, shall we say, unorthodox voice roles, is fantastic, as is Jennifer Jason Leigh, but David Thewlis in the lead is stunning. He perfectly conveys his character’s frustration with everything around him, and yet still allows you to sympathise with him as he begins to feel happy, and not lonely, for once, which was fantastic to see.
And the film all comes together in some of the most enthralling dialogue scenes I’ve seen in a long time. The screenplay is so well-written, and feels so natural, allowing you to completely invest yourself in the events on screen, whilst the performances and the direction add to the intrigue and mystery of every scene by making it so unnerving and emotionally impacting, a demonstration of how straight-up brilliant this film is.
Overall, I’ll give Anomalisa an 8.4, because it’s an absolutely enthralling film that not only gives a fascinating insight into a man’s mid-life crisis and frustration with modern life, but creates some extremely unique and bizarre scenarios that make this a really striking film to watch.