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Stars: Voices: Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Tom Noonan

Director: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson

The evidence:

Middle-aged British father and motivational book author Michael Stone is on a business trip to talk about his work Cincinnati where, miserable as hell over his humdrum life, he meets self-conscious sales rep Lisa Hesselman in the Hotel Fregoli and starts ti feel alive again. Will she turn out to be the love of his life?

The case for the defence:

• It is held by many that writer-director Charlie Kaufman is an acclaimed auteur and therefore this film is an inevitable and automatic critical chef-d'oeuvre.

• Kaufman’s first animated creation.

• The animation is magnificent and features the most impressive puppet sex scene ever seen in a mainstream movie.

• Stone’s naked dance in the shower is a unique one-off.

• Here, as usual, David Thewlis, who voices Stone, is triumphantly better heard than seen.

• Jennifer Jason Leigh scores speaking for Lisa Hesselman while Tom Noonan works hard as the “voice of everyone else”.

• How could any movie involving the creative genius behind Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind be anything less than a cinematic masterpiece?

• EDA Special Mention Award, The Alliance of Women Film Journalists 2016 for “Best Depiction of nudity, Sexuality, or Seduction" (Tied with Carol)

The case for the prosecution:

• Anomalisa is not a solo Charlie Kaufman film but is co-directed by Duke Johnson

• Noonan voices the majority of characters, male and female: artistic, certainly, but ultimately tending towards being irritating.

• Without the critical benefit of the co-director’s status and the curious animation, would Anomalisa have earned a cinema release rather than bowing into the world as a DVD or on an intellectual arts television show?

Expert witness:

It is invaluable to know that Fregoli (the Cincinnati hotel in which majority of the puppet action takes place) refers to a genuine syndrome that classifies Fregoli as a “delusional misidentification syndrome” whose sufferers believe various people, usually strangers, are all the same person.


Critical consensus – a masterpiece.

This reviewer – clever, one of a kind and uniquely the first film to feature a giant dancing penis and a clockwork Japanese sex doll. But, despite the ingenious puppetry, it might probably work just as well as a radio play and seem shorter too.

Alan Frank

USA 2015. UK Distributor: Curzon/Artificial Eye. Colour.
90 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 3, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 13 Mar 2016