Movie Review: Anomalisa
If I never spend another Saturday night watching puppets whine for an hour and a half, I'd be perfectly happy. Anomalisa is the type of pretentious artsy movie where the woman in front of you in the theater has a whimsical pixie cut and laughs in "ha ha has" that sound like fake dialogue-come-to-life, even at parts of the movie that aren't funny.
Aside from the fact that it gets people talking, there seems to be no real reason for the use of puppets. It's a gimmick and tries to distract from the fact that the protagonist of the movie is a whiny self-pitying adulterer who spends a business trip drinking and having relations with an insecure woman who is flattered that he looks at her at all. The movie hinges on the idea and the name of the director, and doesn't pay enough (or any) attention to the actual execution of the story or the narrative arc.
The movie starts various plot points that have no meaning or impact on the story--a long lost love, a hotel manager, a cab driver--and each of these characters gets time in the film that would be better spent folding your laundry or washing your hair on a weekend evening.
My violent reaction to this movie wouldn't have been so vicious perhaps if it wasn't a hyped up artsy-cinema only release. But then again, maybe it would have.
Stars: 2 out of 5
Bring with you: Some Sudoku or a puzzle to keep you occupied
Anomalisa is the kind of film that is especially hard to review because everything you want to talk about, you can't, because you don't want to ruin the fun of discovering the film the way it is meant to be watched. This is the kind of film that is best to watch knowing nothing going in. So stop being stingy with your time, and just watch it. It's fun to talk about even if you don't like it (maybe Allie disagrees).
Though I will refrain from discussing the story in any detail, the look of the film is impossible to spoil. The visual style of the film is incredible. Is there any obvious reason the film demands the stop-motion and the puppets? Probably not, but it's wonderful to look at it, which is reason enough. It's certainly not thematically inappropriate, and the slightly jarring but strangely beautiful puppets mirror the story nicely. The greatest service the stop-motion provides is that it adds a layer of complexity to a film that is almost too simple (at least by the standards of Charlie Kaufman). Unlike Synecdoche, New York, which is bursting from the seams with ideas and activity, Anomalisa is far more singular, exploring a single premise and idea beautifully. The art design provides its own world so that the story can remain tightly focused.
Anomalisa is a relatively short film that probably could have been shorter. I don't know if this is a completely fair criticism, because it didn't feel this way at the time (because while you're watching the film, you are in suspense trying to figure out the central premise of the film, which eventually reveals itself). But in retrospect the film feels a little stretched to meet full-length running time. I'm not sure that the movie would have lost much, if this was a 50 minute film, and it almost feels like it was artificially lengthened because 50 minutes isn't a standard run time for a film. I could have easily watched the film for another hour, but the ending is satisfying enough that the film doesn't need to be any longer than it is.
Not everyone will like Anomalisa (cough ALLIE!), but I would still recommend it to everyone to watch it to make that decision for themselves, because there isn't another film quite like it.
How does it compare to other Charlie Kaufman films?
Better than: Human Nature
Worse than: Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Adapatation