Anomalisa

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(411)

This is a beautiful and distinctive looking stop-motion animation written by Charlie Kaufman, who also wrote the films Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It captures the struggles of an alienated man battling through the big questions of life: What is it to be human? What is it to be alive?

Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) is a writer and customer service expert on a business trip from Los Angeles to Cincinnati to speak at a conference about his best-selling book. Michael is unhappy. His marriage is unfulfilling and he is haunted by a relationship he walked away from over a decade previously. His ex-girlfriend Bella lives in Cincinnati and he calls her on his arrival, but a drink with her in the bar of his hotel goes disastrously wrong and she storms out. He drunkenly ends up walking through the local streets, mistaking a sex shop for a toy shop while looking for a gift for his son.

His detachment is shown by the fact that everyone looks and sounds the same to Michael — all but two of the characters are voiced by the same actor. So when he overhears a woman with a distinctive voice he is delighted to meet her and tells her that she has “a miraculous voice”. He invites Lisa and her friend Emily to join him for a drink. They are in Cincinnati to hear his speech and are staying at his hotel having read his book and implemented his suggested changes at their workplace. At the end of a seemingly fun night of drinking and chatting he invites Lisa back to his room. He is entranced by the time they spend together.

In her own way Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh) seems as sad as Michael. In his hotel room she sings lines from the song “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” and comments, “‘I wanna be the one who walks in the sun’ — that so describes me”, but puts herself down calling herself ugly and saying she isn’t smart.

Will this meeting with Lisa lead Michael to find the fulfilment he doesn’t have in his work or in his relationships with his wife and son? And will Lisa find a way to lift her shattered self-confidence?

Anomalisa is a mesmerising but sad film. It reminded me of a key priority for socialists — the need to fight to change a society which can make us feel alone, dissatisfied and cut off from the things that should give us pleasure, and not to accept capitalism’s message that to change our lives we need to simply change ourselves.