ANOMALISA

— by Jeff Schultz

If you loved the word play of SYNCECDOCHE, NEW YORK, then welcome back to the imaginative mind of Charlie Kaufman, who here, with an anomaly named Lisa, has found a way to visualize and dramatize crushing psychic pain without sending the audience home in a total funk (although just barely; this is a movie that’s difficult to shake off.) It unfolds through a form of CGI that has the chilly look of POLAR EXPRESS, emphasizing the cold, dead heart inside anti-hero Walter Stone. Kaufman’s world is peopled by automatons, Walter included; their faces are seamed coverings that can fall away revealing the robotic works underneath until quickly put back on. But as we learned in BLADE RUNNER, even an android can dream, and for Walter, yearning for something more, something better, someone with whom he can connect is a goal he grasps at even while realizing it will never happen. The opening scene, which starts with a taxi ride and ends up in a hotel room, brilliantly sets up the despair that drives the film. Going forward, we enter a world of clones where basically everybody looks and sounds the same. (For some I’m sure unintentional reason, they all look like actor Michael Ian Black — the men and the women!) The plot is a familiar one: two lonely people fueled by alcohol hook up for a night, allow themselves to think it’s a miraculous meeting of the minds and bodies that will result in eternal bliss, then sober up in the morning and go back to life as they know it and always will. You know it’s going to end badly, but you’d be unsatisfied if it ended any other way. My own alternate title: ANOMIELISA.

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