Year: 2015
Production Co: Snoot Entertainment
Director: Duke Johnson/Charlie Kaufman
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Cast: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan

One of the most interesting things to consider while you're watching Animolisa is why exactly such a thoroughly modern tale – a professional customer service guru on a business trip – has been done with stop motion-animated puppets.

The only possible answer has to be that directors Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson are using the form to say something about the story itself. At a pinch the film could have been done with real actors and sets, but Anomalisa is saying something about modern ennui, of everything (and everybody) feeling the same.

You might not realise it at first, but actor Tom Noonan voices every single character in the film except for the two leads, changing inflection only slightly to play the many female characters and even a child.

Michael Stone (David Thewlis) lands in Cincinnati for a conference on customer service, where he's the guest of honour after a successful management book that's made him a leader in the field.

From the time we meet Michael it's obvious he's deeply dissatisfied, miserable and lost. The fact that every voice in his life is the same is a device about the way he feels.

He also seems to be a complete bastard, which doesn't make the film easy to watch. A curmudgeon and a grump, Michael doesn't want anyone to talk to him, but he no sooner arrives at the hotel than he's calling an old girlfriend whose heart he broke years before despite having a wife and child back home.

After striking out with her and feeling even more depressed back at his room, Michael is stunned to hear a different voice elsewhere in the hotel. He runs through the halls until he finds Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), inviting her and her friend Emily down for a drink.

He sets about taking the starstruck Lisa – in the hotel to hear his speech – back to his room, entranced by her voice and proceeding to seduce her (in the weirdest puppet sex scene since Team America: World Police), finally feeling like he has a purpose in life.

It's when Michael has a nightmare the next morning that the wheels start to fall off his newfound high spirits, and if anything it seems Kaufman and Johnson are talking about how unshakable depression can be, even if you think you've fallen in love.

It's never clear whether we're supposed to empathise with Michael, but if we're not it puts the story of his struggle slightly out of reach, making you wonder instead if he's headed for some comeuppance instead.

The puppets are also deceptively human despite not having much movement in the hands and faces, more than once issuing real-world gestures you see all the time on real people.

There's definite point to the storytelling device that's not immediately apparent, and even though it raises interesting questions like the best of Kaufman's work, it's not perfect – certainly not after the sublime Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on his resume.

But amid a continued assault of sequels and superheroes, it still has a lot of much-needed distinctiveness and originality. Anomalisa is certainly something you've never seen before, and that's something to be celebrated in any film.

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