In Anomalisa, customer-service sage Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis) arrives in Cincinnati for a conference. He’s in a rut; every voice he hears sounds exactly the same (like actor Tom Noonan's voice, to be exact), which amplifies the vice-tight mundanity of life. When he meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a fan whose voice is distinct and melodic, Michael is smitten. Just as the stage became a conduit for Philip Seymour Hoffman’s endless creative pursuit in Synecdoche, a blasé hotel becomes a hotbed for passion and privilege in Anomalisa.
Sitting down with the writer-director is a lot like watching one of his movies: thoughtfulness can lead to insight, as long as you can overcome the awkward tension. It feels like you’ve stuck your nose in someone else’s business. And really, you have, because Kaufman is tight with his inanimate characters. His co-director, animator Duke Johnson, brought them to life. He gave them a human element. They are real, despite being made of plastic.