Sequoia 2 Thu, Oct 15, 2015 8:00 PM
Sequoia 1 Sat, Oct 17, 2015 7:45 PM


A motivational speaker is in need of motivation himself, not on the job but in the business of life in Charlie Kaufman's first film since Synecdoche, New York (2008), a vivid depiction of depression and a kind of Brief Encounter between puppets. An adaptation of the one-act play Kaufman wrote for composer Carter Burwell's “Theater of a New Ear” project, this stop-motion animated drama begins with a plane touching down in Cincinnati, disgorging among its passengers Michael Stone (David Thewlis). In town for a lecture, he is downcast to discover that Cincinnati is just like every place else: Everyone around him looks and sounds alike. Even Bella, the old girlfriend he invites out for a drink has the same look and the same flat voice (Tom Noonan). Then he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a shy customer-service rep in town to hear his speech. Her voice is like music, and Michael finds her vulnerability appealing, but does she represent a new beginning or only a temporary lifting of the dark cloud that envelops him? Both the puppets and the animation are crude, which only makes the ultimate poignancy of Anomalisa that much more remarkable. As two lonely people forging a tentative connection, Thewis and Leigh's vocal work is outstanding in this melancholy exploration of existential despair that is leavened by playful humor.