Charlie Kaufman, the pen behind behind “Being John Malkovich,” “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind” and “Adaptation,” is back, this time as director, with a new film that uses puppets animation to delve deep into some very human feelings.
Michael Stone (the voice of David Thewlis) is an unhappy, dissatisfied man. The author of customer management manuals, he spouts helpful advice about how to keep clients happy, but has not mastered the art of finding happiness in his own life. At a speaking engagement in Cincinnati—he’s reading from his book “How May I Help You Help Them?”—he is confronted by an old love and has an intense fling with a stranger, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), an Akron, Ohio customer service rep with low self esteem (but a way with a song) in town to hear Stone speak. Cue the most intense marionette sex scene you’re likely to ever witness on the big screen.
“Anomalisa” uses a very artificial method to poke and probe into Stone’s very real mid-life crisis. The puppets pack an unexpected emotional weight as they bare their imperfections, both personal and physical, in what amounts to a long dark night of the soul for both Michael and Lisa. A palpable sense of longing and loneliness coupled with the nagging promise of hope keep “Anomalisa” from being a gimmicky—why tell the story in stop motion?—exercise in storytelling, elevating it to a thoughtful, poignant (and occasionally very funny) study of misery in modern life.