By instinct, we oppose monotony and repetition both in our day-to-day actions and in developing our relationships with others. We want each day to be special, each person we meet to hold meaning in our lives. This is what self-help author Michael Stone (David Thewlis) attempts to convey when speaking at a customer service convention. However, the world around him is strange. The nuances of Tom Noonan’s voice acting is enough to confuse you for a few minutes until you realize that everyone’s voice is eerily similar, just as their facial features are.
Michael Stone perceives everyone as identical. He is cynical and, due to his predicament, is disgusted by everyone as a result. He recognizes something is wrong with him and resembles Theodore Twombly of Her in that he is as an unhappy man in an unfulfilling job who seeks comfort in women.
Anomalisa begins with Stone on a flight to the convention at Cincinnati. He re-reads a letter from a prior lover, Bella, of eleven years past who he had left without an explanation. Once at the Fregoli Hotel, he calls her but their meeting is confrontational. As Michael prepares for bed, he hears a voice, a distinct voice different than that of everyone else. He rushes out of his room to find the speaker and discovers that the voice belongs to Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who they later discuss is an anomaly, and thus, Anomalisa.
At the hotel, Lisa rooms with Emily. The two work in customer service and have traveled to attend Stone’s convention. Anomalisa is one of the few films that express female loneliness to the same extent as male loneliness. Bearing a facial scar that she hides with her hair, Lisa is insecure about her looks and frequently describes herself as inferior to Emily. It is Emily, Lisa says, who the men desire, not her. Lisa does have a few interesting traits and is personable, but this is obscured by her timidity and lack of self-confidence. Michael wants nothing more than to hear Lisa speak since her voice is beautiful: it is not the same as everyone else’s.
Anomalisa’s depth is not easily apparent due to its simple, and relatively predictable, storyline. But there are slight details that may not be noticed on a first viewing that prompt curiosity. Why is a Japanese sex doll the only other ‘character’ besides Lisa who has an original voice? Why does Emily have a different, unique, face during one scene from the film? These questions hold no answer, objectively speaking, but they provide a catalyst for many possible interpretations of Kaufman’s film.