Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson have pulled off something truly special with “Anomalisa,” something I raved about when I saw it at the Toronto Film Festival, and it's exciting knowing it's going to be in theaters soon so people can experience it for themselves.
What I find most eerie and thrilling about the movie is the way it manages to sell the illusion of real life through the performances of these stop-motion characters. The voice work by David Thewlis, Tom Noonan, and Jennifer Jason Leigh is exquisite, and somehow, it feels like those performances are really being given by these beautifully crafted stop-motion puppets. Beyond that, the world that they've created for the story manages to work as pure metaphor, something I'm not sure many filmmakers could accomplish in any form.
When Duke Johnson directed an episode of “Community” that was meant to evoke all those great Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated specials, he did it by matching that herky-jerky style that was more a result of the short-cuts taken in the animation than any sort of stylistic choice. Johnson's work was meant to replicate everything about those, so it was much broader and more cartoony than what he was called on to create for “Anomalisa.”
This is a very human film, and much of what works about it depends on those tiny details, the things that happen between people as they struggle with attraction and connection and intimacy. There are very few live-action films that are as insightful and well-observed as this one this year when it comes to human behavior, and that's a strange thing to write.
Paramount just released a video that gives you a look at how the remarkable artists who worked on the film accomplished their dark wizardry and made these characters come to such persuasive, indelible life.
“Anomalisa” opens in limited release December 30, 2015, and then rolls out nationwide in January.