Thursday, February 25, 2016

Anomalisa (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

“Anomalisa” Questions Reality and Identity
Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Leave it to Charlie Kaufman to give us a movie about a self-help author who can’t help himself. You remember Kaufman, the guy who wrote “Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich,” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” Also he wrote and directed “Synecdoche, New York.”

All strange movies that play mind games.

Kaufman returns to that familiar (for him) territory with “Anomalisa” – currently playing at the Tropic Cinema. This is the only R-rated animated film ever nominated for an Academy Award.

Oh, did I forget to mention that it’s animated (his first ever)? The stop-motion puppetry adds to the film’s off-center nature. As does the lead character, a man unable to interact with other people.

Did I mention he hears voices in his head?

It’s kinda weird, an animated character who hears voices in his head voiced by an off-screen actor.

David Thewlis (those “Harry Potter” movies, “The Theory of Everything”) speaks for the anthropophobic writer. Kaufman’s guy Michael has severe problems relating to other people, even his own wife and son. He hears them speaking in a male voice (Tom Noonan). But his social awkwardness begins to change when he meets an interesting woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) during a book signing in Cincinnati. However, the voices in his head keep interfering.

This follows Kaufman’s usual themes of reality and identity. His prototypical protagonist is a man with self-doubt and frustration facing a fantasy world.

Animator Duke Johnson helped Kaufman direct this movie.

If you have any questions about Charlie Kaufman, I think you can sum him up in the title of another movie he penned: “Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.”

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