At first Anomalisa has you wondering why it’s an animated film in the first place, it’s not some huge fantastical adventure story featuring talking animals and epic set pieces, but rather an introspective look at relationships, how we perceive other people and just what goes into all these connections we make over time and how they bleed into one another for better or worse. Michael Stone is a self-help author who is in Cincinnati to give a talk, while the film focuses on his stay at a local hotel as his mind over takes him and he finds himself devolving into a past relationship and attempting to jump-start another. Stone also perceives everybody as having the same face (one of the major reasons for the animation style) further driving him inside himself, making contemplate his marriage and attempting to do something to his stagnant life.
Michael meets a woman named Lisa staying at the same hotel to hear him speak, and immediately becomes enamored with her, whether he genuinely likes her this much or if his subconscious just so badly wants to fall for somebody who is so different than he normally meets. She is shy and reserved, but eventually falls to Michael’s wishes and they enjoy a night together fantasizing about their new life together and immediately have plans to spend the rest of their lives together. Until the next morning when reality sets in and Michael finds nit-picky flaws in Lisa that drive him up the wall, like cutlery clicking on her teeth and he realizes that things always seem so great and perfect in the haze of the moment and he has to face real life. Michael has a breakdown during his speech and eventually returns home to his wife and kid, who throw him a surprise party where he doesn’t know anybody there.
Charlie Kaufman has a way inside the head of human beings that other filmmakers just can never seem to accomplish. His films always seem so out there and bizarre on the outset, but when you really look and understand them they’re all really plainly some of the best and most obvious views into how humans think and interact with the people around us. Anomalisa is no different for Kaufaman and provides another outlet for him to delve into with a framework that sometimes could seem gimmicky or unnecessary, but uses it to reveal thoughts on emotions, relationships and life that other films with a more straight-forward view could never do.