"I have this very adverse reaction to Hollywood romances," Charlie Kaufman once told American broadcaster Charlie Rose. "They've been very damaging to me growing up." In Anomalisa, he and Duke Johnson adapt Kaufman's play of the same name into a mesmerizing work of stop-motion animation. This story of two unlikely lovers is very much a romance — but one that's been forged in one of cinema's most distinctive minds.
Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a successful motivational speaker with fans across the country, but inside him sits a knot of anxiety that renders much of his daily life meaningless. Everything and everyone just seems the same to him. But then Michael meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a speaking-tour stop in Cincinnati. Lisa is an anomaly.
Michael and Lisa begin with prickly, cautious conversations and then move towards love. But, unlike in a conventional Hollywood romance, that romantic arc is neither simple nor obvious. The love scene at the heart of Anomalisa should instantly rocket up the list of cinema's greatest. It's intimate, awkward, heartbreaking, and deeply erotic despite the fact that the lovers are made of felt.
Returning to the themes of human connection and artistic creation that ran through his feature directorial debut, Synecdoche, New York, as well as his screenplays for Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Kaufman delivers an even more insightful rumination on love here, one that finds its perfect expression in the fragility of the film team's stop-motion figures. This is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind romance.