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Anomalisa poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Produced by
Screenplay byCharlie Kaufman
Based onAnomalisa
by Charlie Kaufman (as Francis Fregoli)[1]
Music byCarter Burwell
CinematographyJoe Passarelli
Edited byGarret Elkins
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
Running time
90 minutes[3]
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million[4]
Box office$5.7 million[4]

Anomalisa is a 2015 American stop-motion psychological[5] comedy-drama film directed and produced by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Kaufman adapted the screenplay from his 2005 audio play Anomalisa, written under the pseudonym Francis Fregoli, a reference to the Fregoli delusion.[6] It was released on December 30, 2015, by Paramount Pictures. The film follows a lonely customer service expert (voiced by David Thewlis) who perceives everyone (all voiced by Tom Noonan) as identical until he meets a unique woman (Jennifer Jason Leigh) in a Cincinnati hotel.

Anomalisa received critical acclaim upon release and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Feature Film, and five Annie Awards. It became the first animated film to win the Grand Jury Prize at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, after premiering at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2015.[7]


In 2005, customer service expert Michael Stone travels to Cincinnati, Ohio to promote his latest book at a convention in a hotel. He feels distant from everyone around him, whom he perceives as having an identical face and voice, including his wife and son. Michael practices his talk in his hotel room, but is haunted by the memory of an angry letter from an old flame, Bella, whom he abruptly left without explanation years ago. He arranges to meet her in the hotel bar; still upset, she is outraged by his invitation to his room and storms out. Going for a walk, Michael mistakes an adult toy store for a children's toy store. Wanting to buy his son a present, he goes in and discovers his mistake, but is fascinated by a Japanese animatronic doll behind the counter.

After taking a shower, Michael hears a female voice. He rushes from his room to find its owner: Lisa, an insecure young woman attending the convention with her friend. Enraptured by her unique appearance and voice, he invites both women for drinks at the bar. Afterward, to Lisa's surprise, Michael invites her to his room. Captivated, he encourages her to sing (she chooses Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun") and tell him about her life. After she calls herself an "anomaly", he nicknames her Anomalisa. They become intimate and have sex.

Michael has a nightmare in which his face falls apart and the identical people of the world pursue him, claiming they love him and insisting that he and Lisa cannot be together. The dream inspires Michael to propose that he and Lisa start a new life together. She agrees, but her eating habits during breakfast annoy him, and her voice and face begin to transform into everyone else's. During his convention talk, he suffers a breakdown, saying that he has no one to talk to and ranting about the American government, alienating the audience.

Michael returns to his Los Angeles home. He gives the Japanese animatronic woman to his son, who is nonplussed. Michael's wife has arranged a surprise party, but he does not recognize any of the attendees, angering her. Michael sits alone on the stairs as the animatronic woman sings "Momotarō's Song", a Japanese children's song.

In the final scene, Lisa writes Michael a letter, saying she hopes they will meet again. Lisa's friend, sitting beside her in the car, has her own face.


  • David Thewlis as Michael Stone, an author and a customer-service expert with a mostly negative attitude. To him every person looks and sounds the same except Lisa, whom he perceives to be different.
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa Hesselman, an insecure and sweet woman who came to the hotel to attend Michael's talk about customer service.
  • Tom Noonan as everyone else.


Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson at the 2015 Fantastic Fest

The first version of Anomalisa was written and performed in 2005 for the Los Angeles run of "Theater of the New Ear", described as "a concert for music and text, or a set of 'sound plays'" by Carter Burwell, who commissioned and scored them.[8] It was a double bill with Kaufman's Hope Leaves the Theater, and replaced Sawbones, by the Coen Brothers, from the earlier New York run, after that play's actors were unavailable.[9] This Anomalisa was credited to the pen name Francis Fregoli, a reference to the Fregoli delusion, a disorder centered around the belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise.[6] The 2005 performance had Thewlis and Leigh sitting on opposite sides of the stage, with Noonan in the middle; Burwell conducted the Parabola Ensemble, and there was a foley artist.[8][10]

Kaufman was initially opposed to turning the play into an animated film, saying that the play had "a disconnect between what's being said on stage and what the audience is seeing – there's Tom playing all these characters, there's Jennifer and David having sex while they're really just standing across the stage from each other and moaning. You'd lose that". The film was reinvented, although its script was described by The Guardian as "virtually the same" as that of the original play.[11]

The film's production company, Starburns Industries, sought funding on Kickstarter to "produce this unique and beautiful film outside of the typical Hollywood studio system," where the company believed the film would be inevitably changed from its initial conception. Initially pitched as a short film "approximately 40 minutes in length", the team set a funding goal of $200,000. By the end of the campaign, 5,770 backers had pledged $406,237 to the project.[1] After the success of the Kickstarter initiative, additional funding was secured by the film's production company, Starburns Industries, and the film was expanded to feature length.[12]


The puppets were created with 3D printers,[13] with multiple copies of each character. Eighteen Michaels and six Lisas were created.[14] Johnson recounted that the team was told that such realistic puppets would be "disturbing and off-putting", but disagreed, saying that the nature of stop-motion film, with human hands moving puppets for each frame, brought "organic life" to the medium.[11] One goal of the film was for viewers to "forget they were looking at something animated and just get wrapped up in the scene", he said; "the challenge we felt with so much animated stuff is that you're always conscious of the animation, and we kept asking, 'What if we could escape that? What would it be like?'".[13]

Kaufman and Johnson have described the process of stop-motion animation as "laborious" and found challenges in making the puppets look lifelike and relatable.[15] Animator Dan Driscoll said they found people on whom to model the puppets, studied human movement and facial expressions to produce a precise result, created the puppets and built the sets, and finally placed the puppets on the sets and moved them frame by frame to create the illusion of movement.[15] Kaufman said the medium of stop-motion underpins the narrative of Anomalisa by drawing attention to small details viewers would not notice in a live-action film.[16]

The film was in production for more than two years.[14]


Anomalisa had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2015.[17] The film went on to screen at the Venice Film Festival on September 8[18] and the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15.[19] Shortly after, Paramount Pictures acquired its worldwide distribution rights.[20] The film had a limited release on December 30, 2015[18] and a wider release in January.[21]

The film's DVD and Blu-ray packs were released on June 7, 2016.[22] The Blu-ray Combo Pack with Digital HD includes an in-depth look at the filmmaking process with Kaufman and Johnson and three behind-the-scenes features, including an extended look at the production process and deeper themes of the story. Looks at the sound design and the ground-breaking techniques used to create one of the film's most intricate and intimate scenes are also shown.[23] In the Blu-ray pack, thanks to the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 used in the film's production, ambient sound effects such as the hotel bar background can be perfectly heard and combined with the dialogue.[24]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 92% based on 274 reviews, with an average rating of 8.40/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "Anomalisa marks another brilliant and utterly distinctive highlight in Charlie Kaufman's filmography, and a thought-provoking treat for fans of introspective cinema."[25] The film also has a weighted average score of 88 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 46 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[26]

In Time Out David Calhoun awarded the film five out of five stars and wrote, "It's what you imagine might have happened if Charlie Kaufman had got his hands on Up in the Air or Lost in Translation."[27] Drew McWeeny of Hitfix called it "the most shattering experiment yet from Charlie Kaufman" and graded it an A+.[28] LA Weekly's Amy Nicholson gave the film an A and wrote, "Kaufman is taking our brains apart and showing us the gears."[29] The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw gave the film five out of five, naming it his film of the week, and wrote: "It is really funny, and incidentally boasts one of the most extraordinarily real sex scenes in film history. It also scared me the way a top-notch horror or a sci-fi dystopia might ... Is there anyone else in the movies doing such unique and extraordinary work?"[30]

Observer critic Mark Kermode gave Anomalisa three out of five, writing: "Sometimes it falls apart ... But there’s something magical about the malaise which raises this above mere misanthropy—a heightened sense of fragile life that perhaps only puppets could hope to achieve."[31] Stephanie Zacharek of Time wrote: "Once you start reckoning with Anomalisa's obsession with self-absorption, the novelty of this one-man pity party begins to wear off."[32]

Top ten lists[edit]

Anomalisa was listed on numerous critics' top ten lists for 2015.[33]


Award Category Recipient Result
Academy Awards Best Animated Feature Film Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson, and Rosa Tran Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Animated Feature Film Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Golden Reel Awards[34] Best Sound Editing: Sound Effects, Foley, Dialogue & ADR in an Animation Feature Film Aaron Glacock, Christopher S. Aud, MPSE
Critics Choice Awards Best Animated Feature Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Annie Awards Best Animated Feature Rosa Tran, Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman and Dino Stamatopoulos
Best Directing in a Feature Production Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Best Music in a Feature Production Carter Burwell
Best Voice Acting in a Feature Production Jennifer Jason Leigh
Best Editing in a Feature Production Garret Elkins
Austin Fantastic Fest Best Director Duke Johnson and Charlie Kaufman Won
Fantastic Features
2015 Golden Tomato Awards[35] Best Animated Movie 2015 Anomalisa 3rd Place
Independent Spirit Award Best Feature Nominated
Best Director Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Best Screenplay Charlie Kaufman
Best Supporting Female Jennifer Jason Leigh
American Cinema Editors Best Edited Animated Feature Film Garret Elkins
Mill Valley Film Festival Audience Award Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson Won
Toronto Film Critics Best Animated Film Runner-up
Venice Film Festival Grand Special Jury Prize Won
Future Film Festival Digital Award
Golden Lion Nominated
Green Drop Award
Austin Film Critics Association Awards Best Film
Best Animated Film
Top 10 Best films 4th Place
Alliance of Women Film Journalists Awards Best Depiction of Nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction David Thewlis and Jennifer Jason Leigh (tied with Carol) Won
Best Animated Film Nominated
Village Voice Film Poll Best Animated Film Anomalisa 2nd Place
Best Film Nominated
Best Screenplay 4th Place
Satellite Awards Best Animated or Mixed Media Film Nominated
Saturn Awards[36] Best Animated Film


Anomalisa (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album / Film score by
ReleasedJanuary 1, 2016
LabelLakeshore Records
ProducerCarter Burwell
Carter Burwell film scores chronology
Anomalisa (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
The Finest Hours

All tracks by Carter Burwell, except when mentioned:[37]

  1. "Overture"
  2. "Welcome to the Fregoli"
  3. "Cin Cin City"
  4. "Another Person"
  5. "None of Them Are You" - lyrics by Charlie Kaufman
  6. "Fregoli Elevator"
  7. "Lisa in His Room"
  8. "Anomalisa"
  9. "Cincinnati Sunrise"
  10. "My Name Is Lawrence Gill"
  11. "Breakfast with Lisa"
  12. "Michael's Speech"
  13. "Goddess of Heaven"
  14. "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" – lyrics and music by Robert Hazard


  1. ^ a b Starburns Industries. "Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa". Kickstarter. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  2. ^ "Anomalisa (2016)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 15 February 2021.
  3. ^ "ANOMALISA (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 25 January 2016. Retrieved 25 January 2016.
  4. ^ a b "Anomalisa". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved 21 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Anomalisa". Retrieved 8 August 2020.
  6. ^ a b Lawless, Jill (9 September 2015). "Charlie Kaufman wows Venice critics with inventive adult animation 'Anomalisa'". U.S. News and World Report. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Official Awards of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival". Venice International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 19 February 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  8. ^ a b "Theater of the New Ear". Carter Burwell official website. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  9. ^ Swed, Mark (16 September 2005). "Lend an ear to Charlie Kaufman". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  10. ^ Gallo, Phil (15 September 2005). "Review: Theater of the New Ear". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  11. ^ a b Rommey, Jonathan (15 September 2015). "Charlie Kaufman on weirdness, failure and his new puppet noir". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  12. ^ Starburns Industries (22 May 2014). "Kickstart Update #39: Anomalisa Timeline". Kickstarter. Retrieved 11 June 2018.
  13. ^ a b Zeitchik, Steven (4 September 2015). "Charlie Kaufman breaks hiatus on own terms in 'Anomalisa' at Telluride". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  14. ^ a b Gray, Tim (30 December 2015). "'Anomalisa': The Big Challenges of Re-Creating Life on a Small Scale". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 29 February 2016.
  15. ^ a b Rose, Steve (7 January 2016). "Masters of puppets: Charlie Kaufman and the subversive allure of stop-motion". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  16. ^ Gross, Terry (22 December 2015). "Frame-By-Frame, Filmmakers Make The Mundane Miraculous In 'Anomalisa'". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  17. ^ Kohn, Eric (5 September 2015). "Telluride Review: Charlie Kaufman's Marvelously Strange 'Anomalisa' is An Animated Identity Crisis". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  18. ^ a b Rooney, David (5 September 2015). "'Anomalisa': Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  19. ^ "Anomalisa". Special Presentations. Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 1 December 2015.
  20. ^ Lang, Brent (16 September 2015). "Toronto: Paramount Buys Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved 17 September 2015.
  21. ^ "Anomalisa". Anomalisa Official Website. Paramount Pictures. Archived from the original on 23 December 2015.
  22. ^ "Anomalisa (2015)". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  23. ^ Ciccone, Brenda (7 March 2016). "From Academy Award®-Winner* Charlie Kaufman Comes One of the Most Critically Acclaimed Films of the Year, Anomalisa, Debuting on Digital HD March 15, 2016". BusinessWire. Retrieved 17 February 2017.
  24. ^ "Anomalisa Blu-ray",, retrieved 17 February 2017
  25. ^ "Anomalisa (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved 26 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Anomalisa Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 22 January 2016.
  27. ^ Calhoun, Dave (8 September 2015). "Anomalisa". Time Out London. Time Out Group. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  28. ^ McWeeny, Drew (18 September 2015). "Review: 'Anomalisa' is the most shattering experiment yet from Charlie Kaufman". HitFix. Uproxx. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  29. ^ Nicholson, Amy (15 September 2015). "Charlie Kaufman Has Directed His Second Masterpiece". LA Weekly. Retrieved 27 September 2015.
  30. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (10 March 2016). "Anomalisa review: a masterpiece about the human condition – with puppets". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  31. ^ Kermode, Mark (13 March 2016). "Anomalisa review – uncanny stop-motion". The Observer. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 20 March 2016.
  32. ^ Zacharek, Stephanie (21 December 2015). "Review: In Anomalisa, Puppets Have Problems Too". Time. Retrieved 8 February 2015.
  33. ^ Dietz, Jason (6 December 2015). "Best of 2015: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved 11 July 2018.
  34. ^ "2016: Film Nominees". Motion Picture Sound Editors. Archived from the original on 7 January 2017. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
  35. ^ "Golden Tomato Awards - Best of 2015". Rotten Tomatoes. 12 January 2016.
  36. ^ "The 2015 Nominees". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 4 March 2016.
  37. ^ "Anomalisa". Paramount Guilds. Paramount Pictures. Archived from the original on 29 March 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2017.

External links[edit]