directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
This stop motion animated movie is simultaneously offbeat and very traditional. It's also adult and explicit in a way that probably would not have been possible with live action acting with these particular actors, although you never know I guess. It's a beautiful movie with a message that you've no doubt heard a million times before but in my opinion never gets old. Enjoy life. Expand your horizons. Live and love while you can because sooner than you think winter is coming for us all. I suppose how much you enjoy this movie depends on how amenable you are to hearing those particular bromides again. All of us should occasionally take the time to stop and smell the roses. As Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. If your inner child or young teen could see the adult that you've become would he or she be excited and joyful or revolted and frightened? Are you living your dreams? Are you just slowly hacking your way through a dull and boring life? Or worst of all, are you thoroughly consumed with self-loathing and thus depressed at the choices and compromises that you've made in order to get somewhere that you're not sure you want to be anymore. It makes a difference. Our mental and emotional states can influence our physical state and vice versa. Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a middle aged, out of shape and somewhat jowly customer service efficiency expert. Michael writes books and gives lectures on how to be a better customer service agent. He doesn't like his work. He doesn't like traveling around speaking. He doesn't like his wife. He doesn't like people in general. Michael is a sad sack of a man.
One way that you know that Michael doesn't like people is that almost everyone else in the film that Michael hears or talks to sounds exactly the same. Men, women, boys, girls--everyone sounds identical to Michael. That's because they're all voiced by Tom Noonan. It is kind of weird hearing a man's voice coming from a depiction of a woman or child but it definitely pulls you into Michael's depression and strangeness. It took me a while to get used to this but it does what it's supposed to do. Michael is lonely. He lives in a gray half-world where nothing he does or says makes any difference anyway. Arriving in Cincinnati Michael can't stop thinking about an ex-girlfriend he dumped, Bella. He wonders what she's doing and how her life has proceeded. He meets her for drinks but can't really find the words to explain why they're apart or what he wants from her now. Things go about as well as you might expect. Fleeing back to his hotel from that scene of emotional carnage, Michael runs into two women, one of whom, Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) touches something in him. Unlike everyone else in the film Lisa has her own voice. Both Lisa and her friend are customer service workers who are at the hotel to attend Michael's lecture. To them Michael is something of a rock star. Showing courage and a little gamesmanship he wasn't aware he still had, the normally inept Michael adroitly invites the shy, insecure, slightly pudgy but also perky Lisa back to his room. The duo has some things in common that go beyond their disappointments and missed chances in life. And that's enough plot description. This could be understood as a romance movie but there's more to it than that. I wouldn't call it a romance movie per se. This is a strange little film that may appeal to people who are looking for something different and yet familiar at the same time. But be aware that this is an adult movie in every sense of the word. It is pretty interesting technically that puppets and animation can capture so much emotion and humanity. This movie takes a few different steps than you might expect.
It is a movie that jumbles romance, loneliness, heartbreak and the sadness and joy of being alive all into one big wonderful fractured story. It is an inside joke that Michael and Lisa are checked into a hotel named Fregoli. The Fregoli delusion is an actual disorder that causes the sufferer to believe that different people are really one single person who is out to get him. This is of course what Michael and the viewer will perceive until Lisa's introduction. Kurt Vonnegut also did something similar in his book Breakfast of Champions. This movie will make you think about the masks many of us wear in our day to day lives and how those masks hinder or help us. If you don't mind stepping off the beaten path in some aspects, check this film out.