ANOMALISA (directors: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson; screenwriter: Charlie Kaufman/based on his play; cinematographer: Joe Passarelli; editor: Garret Elkins; music: Carter Burwell; voices: Jennifer Jason Leigh (Lisa), Tom Noonan (Everyone else), David Thewlis (Michael Stone); Runtime: 90; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Rosa Tran, Duke Johnson, Charlie Kaufman, Dino Stamatopoulos; Hanway Films; 2015)
“A gimmicky, strange love story that is hauntingly told but never quite caught my fancy.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A weird animation film about a lonely married man’s breakdown during a one-day business trip from LA to Cincinnati. It’s written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman (“Synecdoche, New York”). Duke Johnson is the co-director, who does his animation thing. The work features stop-motion puppetry, with puppets adorned in masks of human faces. The result is a gimmicky, strange love story that is hauntingly told but never quite caught my fancy.

A motivational speaker named Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) wrote a bestselling book, “How May I Help You Help Them.” He spends the night at a Cincy hotel. Tomorrow he will give a speech to customer-service reps attracted to his book.

We soon learn Stone is locked into a bad marriage and has a bratty son he doesn’t really care for, even if he professes love for his family. Everyone sounds alike to him. Thereby the voice of Tom Noonan speaks for the other characters, whether male or female. Looking to get over his depression, Stone calls on a local woman named Bella he dumped over ten years ago and makes a date with her at his hotel bar.

Things are a bummer until he meets Lisa (voice of Jennifer Jason Leigh), the sales rep who worships Stone. This is one character not voiced by Noonan but by Jennifer Jason Leigh, which means she has a unique attraction for Stone and thereby a unique voice. They go to bed for the night and even though their sex is not great they make a love connection because they are soul mates. Their highlight together is when she sings Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun.”

The droll humor and the genuine concern for the loveless character is the catchall. That it’s performed by puppets who look human makes it an odd fascination.

Anomalisa, which translates to ‘goddess of heaven,’ originated on stadennisschwartzreviews.comge as a sound experiment from composer Carter Burwell.