Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) has achieved success as a motivational speaker, which is ironic considering his air of ennui. Stone’s lack of enthusiasm may be attributed at least in part to the fact that no matter who he’s listening to, he hears the same voice.
That is, until he meets Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a bakery-sales rep who regards him as a celebrity. Shy and unassuming, Lisa is a bit taken aback when Stone invites her to join him in his hotel room. She doesn’t think of herself as particularly attractive.
What she doesn’t realize is that her impact on Stone is seismic. Of all the people in his world, she’s the only one who doesn’t sound the same as everyone else. Her unique voice has risen from the enervating din and taken hold of his heart.
Stone should be happy. Lisa seems to love him unconditionally, and he’s open to the possibility of reciprocating that love. But he’s not the kind of guy who trusts happiness, and he can’t be sure that the life to which he’s become accustomed — one of nightmarish monotony — is really over.
“Anomalisa” is a stop-motion animated film that takes the art form in new, unexpected and intriguing directions. Co-directed by Charlie Kaufman and St. Louis native Duke Johnson from a script by Kaufman, it’s also one of the strangest films ever made — and definitely not for children.
Kaufman is best known as the screenwriter of such envelope-pushing works as “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (for which he won an Oscar), “Being John Malkovich” and “Adaptation.” His sensibility is at once quirky and cerebral, and one comes away from his films thinking not so much about what happened, as about what it all meant. “Anomalisa” is no exception.
With spot-on vocal performances from Thewlis, Leigh and Tom Noonan, the film is nothing less than mesmerizing — and must viewing for serious cinephiles.
What “Anomalisa” • 3½ stars out of four • Run time 1:30 • Rating R • Content Sexual content, nudity and language