Melancholic Muppets – ★★★
The trailer makers always have a tough time. If a good film fails to do well with a poor trailer it’s their fault. If they fail to make a terrible film look good it’s their fault. They’re damned either way. The trailer for Anomalisa, which you can see at the bottom of the page, due largely to the music makes it seem like a swirling uplifting quest for love and fulfilment. In fact it’s a rather bleak and heart breaking examination at the human condition.
It concerns Michael Stone, voiced by David Thewlis, as a customer service guru who is attending a conference to give a key-note speech. Everyone else he encounters is voiced by Tom Noonan putting on a series of voices. We then have Lisa voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh. While the fact Tom Noonan is so heavily employed is to make a central point of the movie it becomes tiresome and annoying, it’s like listening to a bad audio book. David Thewlis voice is superb and should be utilised more often. The role of Michael comes across like a sedate, old and downtrodden incarnation of Johnny from Mike Leigh’s Naked which launched Thewlis’s career.
The animation is incredibly impressive and enjoyable to watch. Much of the film’s enjoyment comes from getting lost in the background of the film soaking up all the minutia. It’s great to see an animated film solely for adults instead of some Pixar endeavour with lots of in jokes for the grownups. The blossoming relationship between Lisa and Michael is one of the most believable of the year and credit has to got to the delicate voice acting of Jennifer Jason Leigh.
While clocking in at 90 minutes, the golden running length for many a movie, Anomalisa still feels far too long. The central premise is a great one but would have been far more suited to a short film. You are beaten over the head again and again with the film’s soul searching musings. Coming from the mind of Charlie Kaufman one might have been expecting something a tad more adventurous. We’ve had full length animated films before and ones with sex scenes in them, Team America, so the story really needed to be a knock out and unfortunately it’s thin on the ground. There are hints of a journey into the odd realms of Kaufman’s previous work but these are only teases perhaps too adventurous or more likely expensive for the lives of puppets.
Anomalisa opens Friday the11th of March