Theatrical release poster
|Screenplay by||Charlie Kaufman|
by Francis Fregoli
|Music by||Carter Burwell|
|Edited by||Garret Elkins|
|Distributed by||Paramount Pictures|
|Box office||$5.7 million|
Anomalisa is a 2015 American stop-motion animated 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. 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 was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature (the category's first ever R-rated nominee), 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.
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. 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 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.
Anomalisa was written 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. 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. Anomalisa was credited to the pen name Francis Fregoli: a reference to the Fregoli delusion, a belief that different people are in fact a single person who changes appearance or is in disguise. 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.
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.
The film raised its budget on Kickstarter so as to "produce this unique and beautiful film outside of the typical Hollywood studio system where we believe that you, the audience, would never be allowed to enjoy this brilliant work the way it was originally conceived". Pitched as a short film "approximately 40 minutes in length", 5,770 backers pledged $406,237 to help bring the project to life. 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.
The puppets were created with 3D printers, with multiple copies of each character. Eighteen Michaels and six Lisas were created. Johnson was told that such realistic animation would be "disturbing and off-putting", but disagreed. 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?'".
Kaufman and Johnson have described the process of stop-motion animation as "laborious" and found challenges in making the puppets look lifelike and relatable. 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. 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.
The film was in production for more than two years.
Anomalisa had its world premiere at the Telluride Film Festival on September 4, 2015. The film went on to screen at the Venice Film Festival on September 8 and the Toronto International Film Festival on September 15. Shortly after, Paramount Pictures acquired its worldwide distribution rights. The film had a limited release on December 30, 2015 and a wider release in January.
The film's DVD and Blu-ray packs were released on June 7, 2016. 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. 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.
Rotten Tomatoes reports a 92% approval rating for the film based on 251 reviews; the average rating is 8.4/10. 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." The film also holds an 88 out of 100 weighted average rating on Metacritic based on 46 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".
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." Drew McWeeny of Hitfix called it "the most shattering experiment yet from Charlie Kaufman" and graded it an A+. LA Weekly's Amy Nicholson gave the film an A and wrote, "Kaufman is taking our brains apart and showing us the gears." 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?"
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." 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."
Top ten lists
Anomalisa was listed on numerous critics' top ten lists for 2015.
- 1st – Drew McWeeny, HitFix
- 1st – Aaron Hills, The Village Voice
- 1st – Tim Grierson, Screen International
- 2nd – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
- 2nd – Amy Nicholson, L.A. Weekly
- 2nd – Alison Willmore, BuzzFeed
- 2nd – Ella Taylor & Kristopher Tapley, Variety
- 2nd – Glenn Kenny, RogerEbert.com
- 2nd – Matt Singer, ScreenCrush
- 2nd – Lou Lumenick, New York Post (tied with Inside Out)
- 3rd – Alonso Duralde, TheWrap
- 3rd – Matt Goldberg, Collider
- 3rd – Ben Travers, Indiewire
- 3rd – Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com
- 3rd – Dennis Dermody, Paper
- 3rd – Will Leitch, The New Republic
- 4th – Peter Sobczynski & Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
- 4th – The Guardian
- 4th – John Powers, Vogue
- 4th – Geoff Berkshire, Variety
- 5th – Michael Atkinson, The Village Voice
- 5th – Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times
- 5th – A.O. Scott, The New York Times (tied with Carol)
- 6th – Kate Erbland, Indiewire
- 6th – William Bibbiani, CraveOnline
- 6th – Erin Whitney, ScreenCrush
- 6th – Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter
- 7th – Kyle Smith, New York Post
- 7th – Jake Coyle, Associated Press
- 7th – Mike D'Angelo, The A.V. Club
- 7th – Eric Kohn & Jessica Kiang, Indiewire
- 7th – Rafer Guzman, Newsday
- 9th – Noel Murray, The A.V. Club
- 10th – Rodrigo Perez, Indiewire
- 10th – Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
- 10th – Peter Travers, Rolling Stone (tied with Inside Out)
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically) – Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
- Top 10 (listed alphabetically, not ranked) – Stephen Whitty, The Star-Ledger
|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||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|
|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|
|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 Screenplay||4th Place|
|Satellite Awards||Best Animated or Mixed Media Film||Nominated|
|Saturn Awards||Best Animated Film|
|Anomalisa (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)|
|Soundtrack album / Film score by|
|Released||January 1, 2016|
|Carter Burwell film scores chronology|
- "Welcome to the Fregoli"
- "Cin Cin City"
- "Another Person"
- "None of Them Are You" - lyrics by Charlie Kaufman
- "Fregoli Elevator"
- "Lisa in His Room"
- "Cincinnati Sunrise"
- "My Name Is Lawrence Gill"
- "Breakfast with Lisa"
- "Michael's Speech"
- "Goddess of Heaven"
- "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" – lyrics and music by Robert Hazard
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- "Official Awards of the 72nd Venice International Film Festival". Venice International Film Festival. Archived from the original on February 19, 2017. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "Theater of the New Ear". Carter Burwell official website. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
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- Gallo, Phil (September 15, 2005). "Review: Theater of the New Ear". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
- Rommey, Jonathan (September 15, 2015). "Charlie Kaufman on weirdness, failure and his new puppet noir". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
- Starburns Industries. "Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa". Kickstarter. Retrieved June 11, 2018.
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- Gray, Tim (December 30, 2015). "'Anomalisa': The Big Challenges of Re-Creating Life on a Small Scale". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved February 29, 2016.
- Rose, Steve (January 7, 2016). "Masters of puppets: Charlie Kaufman and the subversive allure of stop-motion". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
- Gross, Terry (December 22, 2015). "Frame-By-Frame, Filmmakers Make The Mundane Miraculous In 'Anomalisa'". Fresh Air. NPR. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
- Kohn, Eric (September 5, 2015). "Telluride Review: Charlie Kaufman's Marvelously Strange 'Anomalisa' is An Animated Identity Crisis". IndieWire. Penske Business Media. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- Rooney, David (September 5, 2015). "'Anomalisa': Venice Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- "Anomalisa". Special Presentations. Toronto International Film Festival. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 1, 2015.
- Lang, Brent (September 16, 2015). "Toronto: Paramount Buys Charlie Kaufman's 'Anomalisa'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved September 17, 2015.
- "Anomalisa". Anomalisa Official Website. Paramount Pictures. Archived from the original on December 23, 2015.
- "Anomalisa (2015)". DVDs Release Dates. Retrieved February 17, 2017.
- Ciccone, Brenda (March 7, 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 February 17, 2017.
- "Anomalisa Blu-ray", Blu-Ray.com, retrieved February 17, 2017
- "Anomalisa (2015)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
- "Anomalisa Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved January 22, 2016.
- Calhoun, Dave (September 8, 2015). "Anomalisa". Time Out London. Time Out Group. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
- McWeeny, Drew (September 18, 2015). "Review: 'Anomalisa' is the most shattering experiment yet from Charlie Kaufman". HitFix. Uproxx. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
- Nicholson, Amy (September 15, 2015). "Charlie Kaufman Has Directed His Second Masterpiece". LA Weekly. Retrieved September 27, 2015.
- Bradshaw, Peter (March 10, 2016). "Anomalisa review: a masterpiece about the human condition – with puppets". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
- Kermode, Mark (March 13, 2016). "Anomalisa review – uncanny stop-motion". The Observer. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
- Zacharek, Stephanie (December 21, 2015). "Review: In Anomalisa, Puppets Have Problems Too". Time. Retrieved February 8, 2015.
- Dietz, Jason (December 6, 2015). "Best of 2015: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved July 11, 2018.
- "2016: Film Nominees". Motion Picture Sound Editors. Archived from the original on January 7, 2017. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
- "The 2015 Nominees". Saturn Awards. Archived from the original on March 11, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
- "Anomalisa". Paramount Guilds. Paramount Pictures. Archived from the original on March 29, 2017. Retrieved May 27, 2017.