Reviewed by: Greg Mueller
Anomalisa has layers of messages it wants to portray, but it feels like it goes out of its way to burden them with red herrings and a constant hammering of bore. I'm sure there are pieces of the film that I just didn't get, but the main idea is easy enough to figure out. Its only an hour and a half and we don't really go that far, so really any story details fall dangerously close to spoiler territory. The general idea is that Michael is disconnected from everything: his family, his life, the world. Everything is boring, mundane, and blurring together. On a trip to Ohio to promote his new novel, Michael gets a flash of something different. From his hotel room, he hears a voice that is unlike anything he's heard in a long time. Anomalisa is a film that everyone can relate to on some level. While the story didn't quite click with me, the technical aspects can't be ignored. You'll never see one of the stop-motion figures and confuse them for real people, but there is so much attention to detail that you have to appreciate them. There is a scene where Micheal gets out of the shower and we see his knees. There are individual pieces of characters or sets that don't quite feel authentic (like the clear lines on the model's faces that make it look like they are wearing glasses, which is distracting even if they did it for the symbolism), but there are many more pieces where you can tell they put in the effort. Michael's knees almost had me reaching for the remote so I could pause the film and admire the realistic details. The fog on the mirrors, the rain drops on the taxi's windows, the Cincinnati skyline, all show technical brilliance and beauty. The visuals are easily the highlight for me. There is a romance element that feels unrealistically accelerated, the voice acting isn't always great, and the pacing is terrible (I looked at the timer one time thinking we were still in the first half only to see there was only twenty minutes left to wrap up the story), but I feel like some people are more than willing to overlook these elements because they enjoyed deconstructing the story. I love the idea of a mature, R-Rated drama that happens to be told via stop-motion animation, especially when it's competition for Best Animated Feature is garbage like Inside-Out and a family movies like Shawn the Sheep (nothing against Mr. Sheep, but it's clearly a different kind of movie). This part, Anomalisa does well, I just wish the story was at the same level. Maybe it needed more time to develop the story (which would add so much more work) or to condense the depth of what it's trying to say. Again, I realize that there is probably more to the the film than I was able to pick up on, but for me Anomalisa feels like a three hundred page novel being squished into a 80 page novella.