I have to admit I’m not entirely sure whether I actually liked Anomalisa or not. It’s been nearly a fortnight since I went to see it, and while I’ve had the joy of influenza in the meanwhile that has fogged up my brain quite a bit, I still can’t figure out a simply binary ‘I liked it’ or a ‘I didn’t like it’ answer to my opinion on it.
The only thing I know for absolutely certain is that I’m really glad I didn’t go with my mother to see the film because I felt awkward enough just being in a room full of strangers during the sex scene. It’s not because it is graphic either, if anything, considering it is a stop motion picture with puppets, it is one of the most realistic sex scenes I’ve ever seen. It was a nice change that sex was portrayed realistically, so kudos to the film makers for that, but it did take me a bit by surprise.
Overall my reaction to the film was that it was a very realistic film, considering it is stop motion, and I enjoyed that. The pacing of the scenes reflected what happens in reality and the dialogue was utterly brilliant, especially the small talk scenes. My skin was crawling when the dialogue was small talk, because I really emphasised with Michael Stone in those moments. A lot of the time I don’t need the silence to be filled and it is, and most of the time I have no idea what to say. Well, if I’m honest, I want to say ‘shut up’, but I also don’t want to be rude so I usually end up in lots of samey small talk conversations that have no meaning and most of the time from my perspective no function.
I think my uncertainty about the film, probably does come from Michael Stone; while I also emphasise with him because he obviously has psychological issues, many of which are similar to depression, I’m just not keen on the character. It’s not because he lashes out and is a bit of a idiot for cheating on his wife, but it is because I don’t think the character is very well developed.
And that, I think, is a problem I had overall with the film. Considering it has brilliant dialogue and pacing, the character development was lacking in my opinion. I didn’t feel particularly drawn to any of the characters, with the exception of Lisa, whose insecurities and reactions were the very best in the entire film. I knew who she was as a character, but as with Michael I wasn’t drawn into rooting for her character. There was a disconnection from both Michael and Lisa that stopped me from escaping into the film; I was just an observer of the film and because I didn’t have an emotional connection, I was bored the majority of the time.
I shouldn’t have been bored either, because the film is very, very clever. The use of only three actors to portray all of the characters is stunning in my opinion. Tom Noonan as ‘everybody else’ was brilliant, and while it threw me for the first five minutes after you hear him singing Delibes’ ‘Flower Duet’, once I realised the intentional impact of him voicing all of the other characters and them all looking the same, I was able to appreciate the artistic intention of the stop motion film. It makes David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh pop out from everyone else, and I can’t fault their performances.
However, while I appreciate the stop motion and the realism of the film, I can’t get past the disconnection I felt from the characters. Reading into the original intention of the script as a ‘sound play’, where there was meant to a deliberate disconnection between the action seen on stage and the dialogue being said, I understand a bit better my problems with the film. It wasn’t written to be visually introspective; it was written to be heard, like a radio play.
While the artistic intentions of the film were certainly clever, and I certainly appreciated them, I was drawn more to the dialogue than I was to the action scenes without dialogue like when Michael arrives at his hotel room. I enjoyed listening to the characters, and it is the dialogue that has stuck with me since I saw the film, more so than the visualisation of the stop motion.
I do recommend the film to anyone who has a appreciation for great dialogue, and anyone who is a fan of introspective cinema, and while I’m glad I went to see the film, I’m not sure I will have a repeat viewing.