I’m not surprised in retrospect when Charlie Kaufman‘s Anomalisa won the Grand Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival. Esoteric originality will always find support and affection at that festival. Nor was I entirely surprised when Paramount Vantage acquired it for distribution. (The initial plan is open it theatrically on 12.30.) This despite my having felt, at best, a certain arms-length admiration when I saw it in Telluride about five weeks ago.
I called Anomalisa “another humanistic downhead visit to Charlie Kaufmanland — an amusing, occasionally touching stop-motion piece about a pudgebod asshole visiting a No Exit hotel in Cincinatti and slowly dispensing his depression-fueled mustard-gas vibes to one and all.”
The pudgebod — an author of books on customer service named Michael Stone –is voiced by David Thewlis. His brief romantic encounter with Jennifer Jason Leigh‘s Lisa, a fan, leads him to a moment of self-reflection and in fact confession.
Mine is a minority view. There are many others who were deeply touched if not amazed by Kaufman’s film; some are even saying it deserves a Best Picture nomination. That’s definitely not happening, but it could snag, appropriately, a nomination for Best Animated Feature.
The subhead for Drew McWeeny‘s Hitfix’s review asked “how does [Kaufman] make his most human movie using stop-motion animated puppets?” Last night I tweeted that Anomalisa “was so human-like it made me wish I could turn into a golden retriever.”
“Anomalisa changed my life,” McWeeny exclaimed when he filed from the Toronto Film Festival on 9.18. “I mean that literally. I would point out that films have changed my life before because they have played for me at the right time or, in a few cases, the wrong time, and I am sure they will change my life again. I’ve said before that this is my church, the place I go to find my center, to be challenged, to grow, and to see the world around me through myriad eyes.
“Sitting in the Princess of Wales Theater in Toronto, it was about halfway through Anomalisa when I realized I was having one of those experiences, that the film was drilling a hole directly into my brain, and that I was not going to be able to shake it when the lights came up. I should have expected something might happen. After all, this is the latest movie from Charlie Kaufman, and he’s been doing this to me since 1999.”