I’ve fallen into a bit of a ritual over the last couple months. Every night around 11 or 12 I put on a movie and crawl into bed. Then twenty minutes later I take off my glasses and roll over. The movie is somewhat interesting, but I’m too tired, so I’ll just listen to it with my eyes shut to find out what happens. Ten minutes later I’m out cold. Sometimes I consider putting the same movie on the next night, to see what happens, but here’s the thing, I never do, because I don’t care, because all the movies are just so bland. I’ve seen them all before, these predictably derivative time wasters.
Last night was different. I was just as exhausted as I am every other night, old man that I am, but I couldn’t bring myself to take off the glasses and look away because I was captivated. Last night I put on a film that I knew nothing about going in, Charlie Kaufman’s Anomalisa.
On it’s surface, this is a very boring film, and some critics will be more than happy to just label it as such and call it day. A middle aged man on a business trip finds his life and world dreary and ends up having an affair. Just a boring midlife crisis film. But take that concept and have the whole thing enacted in a world of stop motion animation and suddenly you have found a way to make the mundane become artful, the plain become intriguing.
Kaufman found a way to break all the rules. Micheal Stone is an overweight, unremarkable man with an unimpressive personality and an even less impressive penis. Lisa is a frumpy customer service rep with no self esteem. They are puppets. These two puppets have the most realistic sex scene I have ever seen in a Hollywood film. It’s clumsy and funny, with awkward pacing, while also being uncomfortably desperate and shameful.
So what of our protagonist? He is an ailing man, a victim of mental illness apparently on the brink of total madness and also a self absorbed narcissistic philanderer. In Micheal’s world everyone sounds the same. Everyone is the same. He literally says this. “They’re all one person and they love me. Everyone is one person but you and me.”
I empathize with Micheal in some ways. While I don’t consider myself a mentally ill narcissist, I do find it hard to make real connections with people and it seems like the older I get the harder it becomes. Like Michael, I can’t help but feel, at least sometimes, that everyone around me is the same, the same and boring. “It’s boring, everything’s boring,” he laments in a stilted conversation with his ex girlfriend, Bella.
Anomalisa is a truly misanthropic and nihilistic film. This is the unique gift that Charlie Kaufman bestows on humanity. It’s heartrendingly depressing because it’s so damn accurate. A piece of real life, captured not in all it’s glory, but in all it’s morbid banality. Five stars.