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Anomalisa  (Image  ©  Paramount Pictures) 

Anomalisa (Image © Paramount Pictures) 

In the play No Exit, Jean-Paul Sartre declared “Hell is other people”. I think Charlie Kaufmann believes that other people are not nearly that interesting. Banality. Soul-crushing banality is other people.

After much too long a wait, Kauffman has finally come out with another movie, and despite being stop-motion animation, it’s his most grounded and realistic movie yet. Which is not to say there isn’t a bit of magical realism. It’s a world where our protagonist, Michael Stone, is on a business trip to Cincinnati set to give a speech on customer service something something and in his world, everyone sounds exactly the same. Everyone. The people on TV, the bellhop at his hotel, the cab driver, his fellow airline passengers, his wife, his child, his ex. They all are exactly the same person. The same dull, dreary person. Until, a miracle. There’s someone else! Her name is Lisa, and she’s staying in the very same hotel.

And things progress from there in a quiet, heartbreaking way. This is not a movie where you want to be identifying with the “hero”, and yet for many of us, there we are, right up onscreen.

There are only three vocal performances in the movie. David Thewlis as Michael, Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa, and Tom Noonan as everyone else in the world. They’re all excellent, delivering Kaufman’s amazing dialog flawlessly. The stop-motion animation is choppy and rudimentary, a long way from Pixar, but it fits the story perfectly. There’s also a sex scene that is one of the most beautifully intimate ever put on film.

Ultimately, it’s the lesson being conveyed here that resonates so strongly with people like myself who identify with Michael. It’s a lesson that you’ll just have to discover for yourself, if you choose to go. Although it’s probably too late for Michael Stone, and Charlie Kaufmann. But that’s all right, because he’s given us the gift of some of the finest art in the 21st Century.