Every once in a while I leave the comfort of Hollywood-processed movies and go see an art film (It’s supposed to be good for me). And then I remember why I only do it rarely.
This week’s adventure in Plaza Frontenac-style cinema is “Anomalisa,” a stop-motion animation film by Charlie Kaufman. I picked this movie because I generally like Kaufman’s work, which includes such offbeat and cerebral numbers as “Adaptation,” “Being John Malkovich” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”
“Anomalisa” has a germ of an interesting idea but it doesn’t wind up amounting to much. It’s slow and plodding and features a central character I have no sympathy for or interest in going through a midlife crisis that I cared nothing about.
David Thewlis gives voice to Michael Stone, a self-help author who is in Cincinnati to give a speech at a customer service seminar. Stone hates his life, his wife, and his son — in no particular order. He calls up an old frame and they meet for drinks at the hotel bar. It ends badly.
Later, Stone runs into a couple of women in the hotel who are big fans of his book. They go down to the hotel bar for drinks. He invites the younger girl, Lisa (voiced by Jennifer Jason Leigh), back to his room. Through their awkward conversations, Stone finds himself in love — or maybe he just wants to have sex. Either way, they have sex.
The next morning Stone is feeling alive and re-energized. He speaks of leaving his family and running off with Lisa. But as they make plans for the future, he notices something about her has changed.
“Anomalisa” would’ve made a decent “Twilight Zone” episode if Kaufman could’ve cut it down to 30 minutes. Like any good “Twilight Zone” story it turns on a clever gimmick, which I won’t spoil here, but I really didn’t need to spend 90 minutes watching Stone’s rather pathetic life to get to it.
“Anomalisa” is the kind of movie only a film snob could love (yes, I picked that movie poster for a reason). The animation was different and interesting, and the movie has its moments, but overall I now wish I’d gone to see that Michael Bay Benghazi movie.