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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Sunday, January 03, 2016

entry arrow11:00 PM | Film Log 7: Anomalisa

Do I like Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's Anomalisa (2015), the latest opus in Mr. Kaufman's long-running meditation on White Older Male Miserabilism? I'm not entirely sure, but perhaps not. Or maybe just a little. It has an engaging second half, and a truly charming and unexpected interlude where Jennifer Jason Leigh's Lisa sings an awkward version of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun." For the most part, the film drowns us in a monotone world -- embodied as claymation -- where everyone sounds exactly the same (all voiced by Tom Noonan). One hapless fellow, a customer service guru named Michael (David Thewliss), finds himself at wit's to find true connection -- and then he finds Lisa. I couldn't connect, and if I did just a little, I had to be brought in by an out-of-this-world storytelling device that was calculated to keep me watching. In Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York (2008), it was the strangeness of having to behold a theatre director trying to build a life-size set to tell his own story. In Anomalisa, it is the audacity of using animation to showcase adult concern -- and part of that includes having to witness sexual intimacy being demonstrated amply by animated characters beyond an acknowledgement that hentai exists. But I couldn't connect with the misery and with the lack of a strong narrative drive. Because what does Michael learn in the end? Nothing. Nothing changes in and for him. The film is just a masturbatory exercise to embody his formless ennui. But what did I expect from Mr. Kaufman? I've always thought his strange stories was best served being told by somebody else like Spike Jonze. Together they have indeed given us very strange films about miserable and haunted people -- Being John Malkovich (1999), Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), and Adaptation (2002 -- but these film pulsate with heart, and I think that comes mostly from Mr. Jonze. In Anomalisa, only the strangeness and misery remain, and that's not enough. ★★★☆☆

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