Anomalisa is phenomenal and you should see it. I have plenty to say about it (and plenty more I want to say but shouldn’t and therefore won’t here) but before I say any of it I want to get that message across loud and clear. Go see Anomalisa.
Charlie Kaufman was already among the world’s greatest living screenwriters when he graduated to directing his first film. That film, Synecdoche, New York, was a mindblowing tour de force and easily one of the best films of the decade (if you don’t believe me, ask Roger Ebert). That was seven years ago. What was Charlie Kaufman doing for seven years?
The answer is that Charlie Kaufman was playing with puppets. He even had a Kickstarter, because, come on, what movie studio was going to fork up money for “untitled Charlie Kaufman playing with puppets for several years project”? But, amazingly, beautifully, and thankfully for everyone who likes good movies and good art, Charlie Kaufman (along with co-director Duke Johnson) really did spend seven years playing with puppets. The results are amazing.
I don’t want to say too much about the setting of Anomalisa, since discovering the nature of its world is part of its spellbinding joy and horror. I don’t want to say too much about what happens in Anomalisa, because on paper it’s not very much, but on-screen it’s captivating, weighted, shimmering. Let’s just Anomalisa is a story about two people, over a very short period of time, in a very particular place and year. It is a story primarily about how they feel, and how the world feels to them (expressed throughout, perfectly, as who it feels like to them). It is not a happy story, but it isn’t exactly a sad, one, either, at least for one of our characters, even though they’re the one for whom it should be sad. Anomalisa is a very, very human story, which is why it’s about puppets.
There are dreams in Anomalisa, and there is reality, but it is sometimes hard to tell the difference. There is music in Anomalisa, and a song, a song you know but that will still surprise you very much, and might make you cry even though that song has never made anyone cry before. There are hotels, and taxis, and airplanes. There are phone calls, on landlines, that will make you cringe. There are mirrors, fogged from shower steam. There are little details of life that most movies with actual living people never bother to capture. Anomalisa breathes those moments, savors those moments, makes those moments into something special and unique.
Anomalisa is the perfect melding of form and function, of medium and message. George R.R. Martin has said there are two types of writers – gardeners and architects. Charlie Kaufman is proof that the best gardeners are architects. He very precisely, according to a very particular, very methodical, very complex plan builds something. It is always unique, unpredictable, even inexplicable. But in it, always, life grows. Life with sorrow, life with joy, life with scary alienation and confusion and the black hole that is love and death and the search for meaning. But, more than any other filmmaker, it is life, all of life, complete and thorough. Anomalisa is probably going to be the best movie you see this year, and it’s definitely going to be the least like any other movie you see this year.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DT6QJaS2a-U