Few screenwriters have probed the ego as much as Charlie Kaufman, whether it’s the byzantine Synecdoche, New York or Being John Malkovich or Adaptation. In that vein, Kaufman’s new stop-motion movie, Anomalisa, is set in a world where everyone has the same speaking voice (done by Tom Noonan). At least that’s the perception of the protagonist (David Thewlis), a motivational speaker spending a night at a Cincinnati hotel, in 2005. Showing how corporate-speak turns people into automatons, Anomalisa focuses on the dehumanization caused by the service industry. Or it may just be a window into the mind of a liberal on Zoloft living in the George W. Bush era. The biggest problem with Anomalisa is its medium: The stop-motion animation subverts the surrealism the movie tries to advance. Kaufman’s protagonists are memorable for being hilariously pathetic—Nicolas Cage in Adaptation, Philip Seymour Hoffman in Synecdoche, New York—which is not the case here because a puppet doesn’t have the range of emotion that Nicolas Cage does. If Philip Seymour Hoffman were on a date with Catherine Keener and she sounded like a man, that would be a lot more disarming than what we see here.
By Alec Julian & Carrie White