Thursday, 9 February 2017

Layla reviews Anomalisa (2016)

Catch Richee's review of Anomalisa here.

Known for visualising the existential dread that many of us feel, and the creeping disconnect from society and reality, the truth even, that many of us can fall into, Charlie Kaufman is deserving of his reputation in Hollywood as screenwriter whose next script is worth getting excited for. Although we didn't get to see Anomalisa in the cinema's, it was a film we were looking forward to seeing, and the continuous stream of gushing reviews couldn't help but set us up for something we'd hope was special.

Animated with puppets, we are lead through a dreary Cincinnati by Michael (David Thewlis), a customer service consultant, who is staying for a night in a pricey hotel. Things slowly start to seem off. Everyone kind of sounds the same, and everyone, apart from Michael, even look the same. Michael is clearly in a malaise that stop him distinguishing people; everyone is the same bland idiot. Much akin to Kaufman's previous works, Michael's fragile grip on reality seems to fall apart in some strikingly discomboulating moments (of which I won't spoil for you here).

Michael's psychological problems are visualised wonderfully, but the film does little to separate Michael's perspective from the audience's. Although we are to see the world through his eye's, it soon becomes frustratingly impossible to do when Michael persuades us that he is, well, a complete jerk. He does not seem to care about his wife and son, and very quickly after settling into his hotel suite he is contacting an ex who left on very grievous terms, and hopes to get some nostalgic sex from. Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is the only person Michael sees that doesn't meld into the background. A woman with pitiful self-esteem, and who is a bit of a fan girl of Michael's work, she is quickly swept up in Michael's interest in her, only to be thrown aside when Michael can't see her as distinctly different any more.

While we are meant to be troubled by the ennui that our protagonist exhibits, its much more worrisome to see a solipsistic, self-pitying man trample through peoples lives with such ease. Despite Michael worrying that he may just be a ghost in the machine, and the interesting philosophical ideas this brings up, its disappointing that each character seems to become more and more 2D the longer the film goes on. Anomalisa aims for humanistic revelations, but settles for the cliches to overshadow any insights it may have.


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