A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Anomalisa is a stop-motion animated movie that's decidedly not for kids. It has a very graphic sex scene, with kissing, full-frontal nudity (male and female), oral sex, and more. There's also a scene set inside an adult shop in which various sex toys are shown, as well as additional sexual references and images. Language is likewise strong, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Characters drink cocktails and get happily drunk (no repercussions), and the main character smokes cigarettes. There are some slightly spooky nightmare-like sequences and some angry ranting. It's written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman, so fans of Being John Malkovich or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind might be interested, but this one is a good deal darker and less hopeful. It's really for mature audiences only.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Michael Stone (voiced by David Thewlis), who published a successful book about customer service, has traveled to Cincinnati to speak at a convention. Checking into the Fragoli Hotel, he begins to feel that life is meaningless, especially given that all the people around him (all voiced by Tom Noonan) sound the same. As Michael prepares for an evening of mediocrity, he hears an unusual voice in the hallway; it belongs to Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh). Despite Lisa's own shyness and inadequacy, Michael is drawn to her and wants to run away with her. But before anything can happen, Michael's life takes an even more absurd and bizarre turn.
Is it any good?
Celebrated screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has fashioned this existential crisis as a dark, bizarre stop-motion animated movie, and while it's extraordinary in many ways, it's clearly not for kids. ANOMALISA began its life as a kind of radio play; then Kaufman enlisted animator Duke Johnson as a co-director, and they came up with an amazingly detailed, mundane, grimly comic world in which the puppets' seams are allowed to show. (This isn't a movie about smoothness.)
Fans of Kaufman's earlier, imaginative work -- like Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- will find Anomalisa a more dispiriting affair, with special attention paid to the imperfections of the human body and our sometimes-clumsy relationships with food, drink, and sex, not to mention longing for love and sense of purpose. The film pays special attention to sound -- not only spoken voices, but also music (Lisa sings a song that can break the heart). It's perhaps more hopeless than hopeful, but it's a deep, thoughtful experience.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Anomalisa's graphic sex content. What role does it play in the story? Does the impact change at all because the movie is animated? How much sexual content in movies is OK for kids?
Why do we consider "animation" a genre better suited to kids'/family movies? Why is it so unusual to see an animated movie geared toward adults?
What does "existential" mean? What are the characters looking for? What do they find? Is it OK if they don't find anything?
Why does it take so much courage simply to be yourself, as Lisa says?
- In theaters: December 30, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 7, 2016
- Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Tom Noonan
- Directors: Charlie Kaufman, Duke Johnson
- Studio: Paramount Pictures
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong sexual content, graphic nudity and language
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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