Written and co-directed by Charlie Kaufman (the writer behind BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, ADAPTATION, and SYNECHDOCHE, NEW YORK), this singularly stunning stop-motion animation tells the tale of a lonely business man who finds a moment of connection with an “anomalous” woman named Lisa.
A successful motivational speaker, Michael Stone (David Thewlis) arrives in Cincinnati where he’s scheduled to give a speech titled “How May I Help You Help Them?” at a customer-service conference. Though he knows the speech by heart, inside Michael sits a knot of anxiety that renders much of his message, and his life, meaningless. After a fractured call home to his wife and kid, Michael has a nightmare of a drink at the bar with his ex-girlfriend, who he telephones out of the blue. As his night progresses, he wonders if he’s cracking up. But before long, he strikes up an out-of-character rapport with a pair of women in town for his talk. Taking a shine to the shy, adoring Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh), he awkwardly invites her back to his room, and when the ice melts — over a Cyndi Lauper song, of all things — they connect. Somewhere along the way, we begin to oscillate between the situation at hand and the interior of Michael’s mind. And it’s here that the stop-motion puppetry adds new wonder. Soft, fluid, and realistic with just a hint of strangeness, the puppets become more human than humans and more figurative than figures. As the characters stumble and connect, the film plays with ideas about individuality and social connection, raising questions about the similarities that unite us and the particularities that make us special. Warm, funny, and surprisingly tender, Kaufman’s latest is a strikingly simple romance that’s painted with majestic affect.
*Academy Award Nominee for Best Animated Feature
*Golden Globe nominee Best Animated Film
(USA / 2015 / Directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson)
R / 90 mins.