The Fregoli delusion is the belief that everyone else is the same person, just in disguise or in a state of constant appearance shifting. This delusion befalls the main character of Anomalisa: Michael Stone, a customer service author on a business trip who happens to be staying at (surprise!) Hotel Fregoli. At said hotel, everyone from the bellhop to the couple arguing in the hallway sounds suspiciously like Tom Noonan, and the voices combine to create an environment inundated with the dull sounds of customer service. Each face is clearly split into two by a line across the middle, furthering the idea that they’re all wearing masks of some sort.
It’s one animation choice out of many for Duke Johnson and co., the team behind the brilliant “Abed’s Uncontrollable Christmas” (this fact brings me much joy). The stop motion is wonderfully done, and the camera captures the human body in its natural, imperfect form; this is most evident in one of the more realistic sex scenes you’ll see depicted in film. It’s a scene you can laugh at at first, but it ultimately reveals itself as something honest, touching, and beautiful.
The movie as a whole is the same. Kaufman imbues it with his sense of humor throughout, his awkward humor working in tandem with mundanity and despair. He taps into the human condition and our need for connection, our longing for someone with whom we can relate. When Michael comes across Jennifer Jason Leigh’s Lisa, it’s an anomaly, but it’s one that brings happiness and beauty where he hasn’t seen any for a while. The relationship is fleeting and heartbreaking and filled with unfulfilled desires and fear of loss, but most importantly, it feels real. Even though we aren’t seeing any actual humans on screen, it feels like we are, and that’s more than we can say for many films.
-This deals with many of the same themes as Synecdoche, New York, but they do feel like very different projects. You can tell that this one is Kaufman reined in a little bit, which does lead to a more typical character trajectory; nevertheless, he still does find time for some fun little sequences here and there. I do love both movies for different reasons, although I will say that Synecdoche hit me harder.
-Shout out to David Thewlis as well for his fantastic voice performance as Michael.
-Thank you to Kickstarter.
Photo credit: Anomalisa, Paramount Pictures