Initially mesmerising, often amusing, a triumph of animation, but ultimately less than the sum of its parts, this Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich) stop-motion will divide opinion, as well as entertain.
Co-directed by animator Duke Johnson, its main protagonist is the depressed motivational speaker Michael Stone, voiced by Brit veteran David Thewlis, as opposed to anyone of that name more locally. He’s booked into a corporate Cincinnati hotel for one night, before he is to speak at a conference of devoted fans of his call-centre bible the next day.
The book is hilariously entitled How May I Help You Help Them, whilst the hotel is called Fregoli. Fregoli syndrome is a condition where sufferers believe everyone is the same person and this is how Michael sees and hears his beige world of automata.
Life is passing Michael by and he needs love, or at least a one-night stand, preferably singing Cyndi Lauper lyrics. The puppet male is prey to a fatal fault for a man who should know it all and inspire everyone he meets – boredom. He also has an inability to cope with everything from room service to the TV, card keys and the shower in the hotel room. We have that much in common, so far so funny.
But married father of one Michael, world weary and unable to connect with people, is still looking for something extraordinary. He seems to find it momentarily in one of the conference delegates: Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Clumsily detaining her in the hotel corridor, after having a drink with her and her blonde friend Emily, he invites Lisa to his room. For one night at least, she turns out to be a Girl Who Wants to Have Fun, just like Cyndi. Lisa, with a scarred face and dark past, is therefore ‘an anomaly’, but the graphic and spooky puppet sex turns out to be quite gruesome onscreen.
Nicknamed Anomalisa and the first supporting character not voiced by Tom Noonan, in a bland toneless accent, Lisa enjoys brief adoration from Michael, before he has a living nightmare in the hotel, literally losing face.
Charlie Kaufman delivers his take on love with verve. Its fragility is matched by the ghostly contours of the stop-motion figures. Sometimes charming occasionally overblown, it will however haunt you afterwards.
by Liz Kennedy
Anomalisa (cert 15) is 90 minutes duration and is at QFT from March 18-31.