When Isn't It Real?

Voices of: Tom Noonan, Jennifer Jason Leigh and David Thewlis
Directors: Charles Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Stop Action Animation
Paramount Pictures
Rating: R for sexual themes and language
Running Length: 90 Minutes
“Anomalisa” has been nominated for an Academy Award in Animation

 It takes awhile to get into the storyline of “Anomalisa,” which is a composite name for the girl in this film (anomaly/Lisa). Stop action animation (the “Shaun The Sheep Movie” type) can look almost real when done with humans in mind. This is a story of a first love, wasted time and depression. The actor’s voices carry the film, and you don't even have to look at the screen to hear what is going on. It is an adult film. Example---here is a wry sense of humor, one instance being the difference between a Toy Store (children) and Toy Store (adults.)

 The film begins with a man (Michael) traveling to Cincinnati to give a lecture. He is a noted inspirational speaker. David Thewlis provides the voice of Michael, with a slight hesitancy and slight British accent. Michael is a person who looks depressed most of the time. Jennifer Jason Leigh is Lisa, the girl from his past, who is chatty, self-doubting and can be a bit clingy. Tom Noonan provides the other voices.

The story shifts back and forth between the present (a presentation) and the past (a presentation) and where he has a one-night stand with a girl (Lisa) he meets on an elevator. Her voice captivates him and she admits his inspirational work has greatly improved her speaking ability. Suddenly they are apart, and years later, he contacts her again. Can you relive the past? Is happiness there or in the present? Then, is all of this in Michael’s mind? You decide. In the meantime, you may begin to wonder about your own life and whether it is fulfilling or not. Can one night’s love suffice for a lifetime?

What happens in the date pick-up, conversation and later are shown in a new way. Charles Kaufman (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” with Jim Carrey) can tweak your mind and does so here as you try to find what is real. The conversations are familiar when meeting people and Charles' comments to himself. Animation moves smoothly and the color scheme is mild to make you concentrate on the figures and their conversations and comments. It’s no wonder the Academy came calling with an Oscar nomination. Eventually, there may be an award for voice work (remember Scarlett Johansson in “Her”), but right now, we have to take the whole package. At the end of the film, I was satisfied and though the director could have used real actors and done the film in the usual way, his choice of animation was OK., plus the use of a Cindi Lauper song.

Copyright 2016 Marie Asner