Movie Review: “Anomalisa”, Starring David Thewlis
David Thewlis (Remus Lupin) has kept himself busy since he finished filming Deathly Hallows in 2011. He has appeared in blockbusters, including Regression (starring Emma Watson), Warhorse, and The Theory of Everything (starring Eddie Redmayne). Anomalisa is one of the smaller films that he has starred in, but it deserves to be recognized for the artistic risks that it takes.
Anomalisa tells the story of self-help author Michael Stone, voiced by David Thewlis. He is a mostly unremarkable man except he suffers from the Fregoli delusion and perceives everybody else as the same person. Everybody – receptionists, taxi drivers, even his own wife and son – has the same gormless face and soporific voice (all voiced by Tom Noonan). The film opens as he touches down in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he is attending a conference on customer service. His ten-year-long isolation finally ends when he meets Lisa Hesselman, an insecure young woman with her own voice (Jennifer Jason Leigh). He labels her an anomaly (hence, Anomalisa), and they spend the night together.
Anomalisa was made entirely using stop-motion puppetry, and considering it was produced with a relatively small budget of $8 million, it is very convincing. It is the first film to use 3D printing to create each character’s face, and although this process creates a distinct line at eye-level, it gives the puppets very detailed and human-like expressions. The audience is treated to fast-paced action as well as detailed close-ups, which all look incredibly smooth and natural.
Originally written as a sound play, Anomalisa finds comedy in life’s small inconveniences. Michael Stone endures awkward conversation with a taxi driver and long silences with a luggage porter, who are, again, all voiced by Tom Noonan. David Thewlis does an outstanding job of expressing Stone’s loneliness and depression only using his voice, and the detailed puppetry really brings out the nuances in his performance.
Director, writer, and producer Charlie Kaufman is known for his experimental and mind-bending films, including Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Synecdoche, New York. Anomalisa takes creative risks by expressing Michael Stone’s mundane life and not indulging in typical movie tropes. It is incredibly funny but also heart-breaking and is another unique film under Kaufman’s belt.
Watch the trailer here:
Anomalisa is playing in select theaters in the US and will be release in the UK on March 11.