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Anomalisa: Tom Noonan Voices The Entire Human Race & It is Genius [Blu-ray Review]

Written by Charlie Kaufman, the visionary behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Being John Malkovich, and co-directed with stop-motion specialist Duke Johnson (“Moral Orel,” “Community”), ANOMALISA was released June 7, 2016 on Blu-ray combo pack.

Michael Stone – husband, father and noted author – travels to Cincinnati to speak at a customer service conference.  But once he’s separated from the routine of his daily life, a chance encounter helps him to realize just what, and whom, he’s been missing.  Love, laughter and loneliness align in this stop-motion work of art featuring the voices of David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tom Noonan.

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Review

I had missed Anomalisa during Oscar season and had heard nothing but great things about this extremely unique film which decided to tell an animated story of a man who is bored with life but falls in love during a hotel visit on a business trip. This is not your typical concept that begs for animation – not even close. But director Charlie Kaufman is a weird dude and if you know anything about his film history then it’s no surprise that he’d be taking something this bizarre and running with it. What a bold, strange and fascinating film Anomalisa is. But does that mean it’s any good? Yes and no…

The movie is filmed using stop-motion animation with puppets – extremely and intricately detailed puppets mind you – you have not seen puppetry this advanced on film. Also – chances are you haven’t seen this much nudity in a puppet film either. Team America may have been the first to do a sex scene on the big screen using puppets, but Anomalisa does it seriously. No Cleveland steamers or jackhammers here, just a sensual love scene between two puppets. Also – full frontal puppet nudity. The detail on our lead character’s puppet penis is astounding. Just the way they shaped our lead character as a whole is wonderful because they gave him bad posture, a gut – he looks like a real dude when he’s getting out of the shower. It’s absurd but it works.

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I wasn’t a fan of the overall plot. I felt it was way too thin for a full length feature. We have an author who is trying to get laid the night before his big speech at some hotel convention and…. well that’s it. There is a lot of time spent on self reflection here from our lead, voiced to perfection by David Thewlis, so I appreciate these moments and the dialogue is so damn good… But it never goes anywhere. I kept asking myself what the point was and then when I finally got the point after the fact, I wondered why I needed to watch an hour and a half indie film to get there. This is an art film and I appreciate art films, but it felt very long and that’s not good when the movie is by no means in fact – a long movie…

I have to give it up for Tom Noonan though. My god… I love this guy and what he does in Anomalisa is superb. There are only THREE, count them, THREE voice actors in this film. Our two leads, Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh, then EVERY OTHER SINGLE CHARACTER is voiced by Noonan. He literally does the voice of every character in Anomalisa. The effect here, which I didn’t get at the time, was to portray how our lead character is bored with people and how everyone sounds the same inside his head. Now, Noonan does manage to alter his voice ever-so-slightly every single time, but there’s always that right amount of Noonan every time. It’s fucking genius. He plays a kid, women, other dudes – the background chatter – everybody. This has to be one of the coolest things ever done in film. It’s just a shame that I really didn’t enjoy the final product overall as much as everyone else has.

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Anomalisa is wonderfully weird, but it was too long. I do feel you should still check it out though, if nothing else then to just listen to Tom Noonan go crazy and voice the human race in an adult puppet drama. (He was Frankenstein in Monster Squad by the way)

Special Features

Featurettes:

None of Them are You: Crafting Anomalisa

Intimacy in Miniature

The Sound of Unease

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I had no idea that Anomalisa was a stage-play first. And it wasn’t your typical stage play either – the cast literally just sits on stage and they talk with one another while a sound guy plays music or effects. Almost as if they were recording the voice-over for a film. They had the same cast of Noonan, Thewlis and Leigh in the original production too so it’s nice to see them return for the feature.

The special features here were essential to me, because I wound up lost on some of the artistic choices in the film and the director/writers explained them in detail here which I loved. I appreciate the behind-the-scenes work that the team put into this package, everything from the design of the characters and why – to how they filmed this movie using stop-motion-animation.

Rating:

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