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Weird… and wonderful

‘David Thewlis’ and ‘Jennifer Jason Leigh’ star in Anomalisa

10 March, 2016 — By Dan Carrier

Never has the navel-gazing despair of a mid-life crisis been so enjoyable. In this bizarre film that uses stop-motion puppetry, our lead Michael Stone (David Thewlis) travels to Cincinnati for work, and embarks on a chain hotel bedroom-based adventure that may – or may not – change his humdrum existence, and we come long for the ride. In the film, which is adapted from a theatre production, Michael traverses the US giving speeches at conferences to sales reps. The author of the bestselling guide How May I Help You Help Them?, he has a pallid, knackered complexion, smokes too many fags and has little enthusiasm for his wife at home nor the boy he calls Slogger. On a trip to give a talk at Cincinnati, a rain-lashed city he once lived in, he checks into the Fregoli Hotel and then encounters Lisa Hesselman (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a lonely sales rep who has driven 400 miles to hear him talk about his work. It sets in chain a crisis within Michael’s psyche. This is a superbly odd film. Using puppets it feels weird from the off. The storyline meanders absentmindedly into nihilistic psychodrama. There is something deeply sad about these cloth characters, and with Thewlis voicing the lead, a deep sense of the melancholy comes through It sits nicely in the body of Kaufman’s earlier works – Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Synecdoche, New York. Add to this the brilliantly bonkers idea of using Tom Noonan to voice every character bar Lisa and Michael, and you get an engrossing sketch of the mundanity of one man’s misery.

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