One of the most disappointing things in animation is that more adult oriented western animation often gets sidelined, if not outright ignored. For whatever reason, the west in general and America in particular has got it firmly in their head that animation is for children and thus anything that breaks that mold must not be worth considering.
Which is a damn shame, because a lot of great films have gone unseen because of this. A Scanner Darkly, Waltz With Bashir, The Illusionist, Persepolis, all of these are great films that for the most part, people just didn’t see. And I am desperately hoping that isn’t the fate that awaits Anomalisa.
Right from the start, I have to warn you that this review is going to be on the short side. It’s difficult to talk about Anomalisa. Not just the plot summary (which I’m gonna skip entirely), but the review as a whole. So much of what I love about this film is hard to describe because it deserves to be seen as cold as possible. I think that might be why the movie’s advertising is so is vague (and mildly misleading). So if you want my direct opinion, you should see it. Right now. Stop reading and go see it.
I will say that, compared to writer and co-director Charlie Kaufman’s previous works (Adapation, Syencdoche, New York and the unaccountably brilliant Being John Malkovich) Anomalisa initially feels a tiny bit more normal. That normality is a mask though, and Anomalisa gets stranger and stranger as time goes on. Trust me, there is a reason why a film with only a handful of characters that takes place in essentially a single location is animated. It will make sense.
I’m honestly having trouble discussing this movie in such a way that won’t damage the purpose of seeing it. I will say that the animation, when you get to see it on screen, is beautiful. Upon seeing the trailers, I was worried that it might fall into the Uncanny Valley a tiny bit, and while it does, I hesitate to say that may have been the point. It’s hard, once again, to say why I think that, but it will make sense when you’ve finished the movie.
And then there’s the script, oh the script. Kaufman is one of the best writers currently working, and his script here is still in the top level of his work. It mines small scenes to find a ton of emotional depth and uses quiet sense of unreality to build to what the story is and what it’s about. A scene towards the end is…ugh, it’s very hard to discuss without spoiling it. Okay, so there’s what amounts to a small and quiet scene towards, that is so emotionally raw that it nearly brought me to tears. It so perfectly illustrates what the grand metaphor at the center of the film is, and so perfectly encapsulates a heart wrenching conversation that I have been on both sides of, that if I even told you what the scene concerns, it would ruin the entirety of it. Just…trust me.
Anomalisa is a lot of things. It’s a film that had my jaw gaping open at what had just happened multiple times, and a film that bases an entire scene around a character singing Girls Just Wanna Have Fun badly. It’s simultaneously a drama, a comedy, a tragedy and at a points, almost a fantasy. It’s the first R-Rated film to ever be nominated for Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards. It’s a film that if I had seen it before January 1st would have certainly made my top 3, perhaps even made a run at the number one spot. It is, most of all, a film that I hope becomes popular and influential, because it’s a film that demands its animation style, that legitimately pushes animation in a direction I’ve never seen it used in. It is a film like no other, and it’s a film that you need to see as soon as possible.
And that all I can say.
Elessar is a 25 year old Alaskan born cinephile and this review actually wound up only like 200 words short of his normal reviews.
– beautiful animation
– one of the best scripts of the year
– …I guess it’s kinda depressing?
– I dunno man
– I mean, I guess *spoiler*