What is real? Now there’s a question. Right up there with ‘why are the boy’s loos always so much more disgusting than the girls’? But having watched Anomalisa it left us asking that very question, which can only lead us to conclude it is An Important Film. Are you paying attention at the back?
Anomalisa (which for the record derives from a mash up of ‘anomaly’ + ‘Lisa’) is an animated film from the furiously fertile imagination of Charlie Kaufman, who gave us Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, amongst other crazy gems. So you’d think if you let that imagination loose in an animated environment the sky would be the psychedelic limit. Yet Anomalisa is the most prosaic of stories. It follows businessman and customer service guru Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) travelling to a conference where he is to be guest speaker. His plane touches down, he takes a cab to the city centre, the cabbie engages him in small talk, he arrives at his generic large business hotel, he is walked to his room by a bellboy who hovers for a tip, he calls his wife and orders room service. Then he calls an ex-girlfriend and meets her at a bar.
Doesn’t exactly sound scintillating, does it? Yet it is. The impeccable attention to every last mundane detail, even down to how US room service cheerfully parrot back the precise and elaborate menu description of the dish you are ordering, is totally hypnotic, lulling you into complete acceptance of how real Michael Stone and his life are. So as we learn more about him, his womanising, his unhappiness with his marriage, he becomes as real as any living character. And if you are still questioning how convincing an animation can be, in Hong Kong Anomalisa was given the strongest possible adult rating due to a sex scene that is more intimate, realistic and emotional than anything normally seen between human actors.
Anomalisa is a film about everyday people and their mundane, everyday lives filled with emotion, disappointment and frustration. The sort of things generally considered too dull for Hollywood to commit to celluloid. Well done Mr Kaufman for doing so, in your typically imaginative and unorthodox way.