Anomalisa ★★★★

This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.

This review may contain spoilers.

I'm now certain I have the correct read on this. It's clearly a portrait of narcissism and a peek into a cycle of cruelty and misogyny. I understand thinking that it makes excuses for Michael, because until the ending, the film in a way tricks you into thinking that you're meant to identify with him. So when that rug gets pulled out from under you, and you realize what a horrible person he is, it's natural to feel conflicted and betrayed by the film.

But on a rewatch, it's completely apparent that this is the design from the beginning. Actually there's nothing romantic about Anomalisa in the slightest. As a matter of fact, it almost functions as an anti-romance film. It starts with him reading a letter written by a woman he wronged 10 years ago, who he invites out and tries to bring back to his hotel room before she can finish her drink, and it ends with another letter being written, though the tone is quite different (owed more to Lisa's generally bright attitude more than Michael's change as a person). Even minor details like the painfully awkward scene of him choosing Lisa over her friend in the hallway for a clearly sexual encounter or him incessantly kissing her while she tries to talk about language. None of it looks like love or even emotional connection; more like a man preying on an insecure woman who idolizes him. He's obsessed with her voice, not her personality.

1. There's a surreal sequence in the middle where his face begins to go haywire and just as he's about to pull off his jaw at the seams, he hears Lisa's voice and stops. Maybe I'm reaching but I don't think it's a coincidence that just as he's about to show himself for what he really is, essentially accepting his flaws, he's distracted by the voice of another person he can use to fill his void.

2. I also don't think it's a coincidence that Kaufman has Lisa sing "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun." He even omits a chunk of the song, ensuring the lines she sings are concise and thematically relevant. The second, "some boys take a beautiful girl and hide her away from the rest of the world; I wanna be the one to walk in the sun; girls just wanna have fun," even comes back later: her voice shifts to the monotone cacophony of everyone else at breakfast by the window, with the sun shining right behind her. Not for nothing, you're better off without him.

EDIT: I feel like I may have been a bit harsh on Michael. I just wanted to emphasize how I don't think the film doesn't means to excuse his actions or elicit pity for him. At the end of the day, he's extremely flawed, but also human. Unfortunately, we all leave people in the wake of our existential crises.