Day Five: Anomalisa (MotM 2020)

anomalisa cover

To this film’s detriment, there was a heavy load of expectations from me going into it. Three film critics whose opinions I trust—for those aware, the three members of the Sardonicast podcast on Youtube—all gave this a perfect 10/10. The only other time I’m aware of this happening was with The Lighthouse, which I also adored. Fully prepared to fall in love once again, my decision to watch this came with the caveat that—even though the reputation was high—deep down, I wondered if it might be too much to ask for.

Anomalisa is a very interesting film. Filled to the brim with symbolism, emotion, and detail the likes that are not only impressive to the untrained eye, but blissful to those who can better appreciate it, there’s quite a bit to unpack in about 85 minutes’ worth of content. Its use of animation similar to that of Moral Orel is occasionally so lifelike that I begin to forget that the characters aren’t real people. Weird, depressing, beautiful, and very fleeting. A topic of human comprehension that is rarely explored in cinema, especially that of mainstream cinema. I can see why the critics I trust adore this film, as there’s a genuine effort in making this as complexly emotional and psychologically distressing as possible.

anomalisa 4
Same.

And… I didn’t connect with it. In the later stages of my still-young (relative) life, I’ve begun to understand that no matter the amount of technical prowess or fascinating attributes that can be placed on a film, it doesn’t guarantee I’ll appreciate it to that extent in the moment. Perhaps a re-watch of this will have me enjoy it more, now that I have a better expectation of what to look for. Although, re-watching films hasn’t done many favors for me in the past, and while I better comprehend the point of Anomalisa from others’ inputs afterwards, I’m unsure how much of a difference it makes. In a sense, I feel almost like the main character from this film in regards to the film itself—I want to connect, I want to feel and to love… but it just doesn’t do it for me.

With the admission said, there were still moments within that I found most mesmerizing. Lying on the bed with the woman he sees differently than all others. A rewarding of pleasure in a split-second decision that, from an outsider’s perspective, was rather creepy to attempt. Talking about Cyndi Lauper, softly singing the one song of hers I’m familiar with. Even with the foreboding implications hiding in the background, there was a tenderness to the characters’ connection—however short—that was pleasant.

anomalisa 2
A moment of respite.

Part of me also wonders if I feel the discussion that Anomalisa provides ends up being more interesting than the film itself. Recall when I said The Mosquito Coast was like middle/high school film material? Anomalisa is college-level dissection. The kinds of theories I saw concocted by letterboxd reviews on it proved to be immensely gratifying after the rather tumultuous experience of apathy trying to absorb empathy. Is it an issue for a film to cause discussion that provides more rewarding closure than itself? Or is it better for even providing one in the first place?

Another such issue comes from frustration with mental inefficiency. If I were to pick this film up immediately and understand all that it wanted to say (or not say?), would I enjoy or appreciate it any better? A feeling of “I don’t quite get it” flustered my brain as the credits began to roll, analyzing the pieces that had been left for any sort of coherence. This isn’t to say I was completely lost; probably wouldn’t have made any judgment whatsoever if so. Being able to make snap-judgments about something’s worth is something I like to take pride in, though perhaps that isn’t realistic. Many (including said three critics) often say that the best films are the ones we need to watch several times over to concrete feelings. The exclamation point to that is the desire to do so.

anomalisa 1
The desire to see this man’s penis several times again.

Do I want to watch Anomalisa again? Ehhh… probably not for a little while, but the sentiment is at least present.

Well, I have talked quite a bit about things that refer to the film from the outside. Readers probably want to know about the inside. Best thing to understand is something referenced above: this is college-level dissection. Do you love Transformers and movies like it? You will absolutely despise this. Do you like mother! and movies like it? You will feel depressingly at home here. Its uniqueness is only trumped by its gorgeous animation, which, as mentioned, occasionally made me forget this was animated. A very depressing tale with no clear answers. Kind of like life! (I’m sorry. I’m really not that pessimistic.)

anomalisa 3
Smile! I was just joking!

A puzzle that takes time and effort to maybe solve. Romance destined to live and die within a single night. Existential trauma born out of monotony. Smile and be happy. I tried what I could to be open about my feelings about this film, even if it did not affect me the way it probably should have. I hope you will take it with you, even if it will inevitably fade under the weight of more crucial memories.

Final Score: 7/10

The rating for all other films can be found at Letterboxd.

For more, check out the March of the Movies Archive!

Thank you for your time. Have a great day.

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