“I’ve heard it’s heartbreaking and so moving. You’ll love it”.
“I’m not sure you’ll like this one, it’s not very ‘you’”.
One of these statements is about Anomalisa. The other is about High Rise.
Any animation from now until forever will have the misfortune of finding itself compared to Inside Out, since Pixar’s finest gave the world a well-needed wake-up call of the genre not being synonymous with ‘juvenile’. Anomalisa tells a tale made for grown-ups, viewers’ suspicions confirmed with one of the best sex scenes on screen in recent history. Live-action action can eat its heart out.
Writer and director Charlie Kaufman (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind) paints the portrait of Michael Stone, a motivational speaker lacking the desire to live up to his world-renowned advice on a daily basis. His life has turned drab and its soundtrack monotonous. His entire world and all who inhabit it are voiced by just one chosen tongue (Tom Noonan), cleverly embodying the indistinguishable human ocean in which Michael is a lone swimmer. It is when he meets Lisa, an attractive woman but most appealingly a new voice, that things become interesting.
The love story that develops between the two evolves from endearing to unsettling. Kaufman yet again strikes his trademark balance found in Eternal Sunshine in which the film simultaneously breaks your heart and sews it back together, but inside out. Clumsy and charming initial chitchat gives way to a colder and more stoic exterior from both main characters, and the film’s charm fades when the lovers grow apart as quickly as they came together.
When the lights came back up at the end, I was still hungry for more. Anomalisafailed to satisfy my cravings for raw human emotion, despite them being teased with its frankly remarkable animation. Computerised bodies feel almost tangible and there is a clear grasp on reality which seeps through in the script’s naturalism, transcending its visual animated form. Unfortunately, it neither gives in to its emotional potential nor distances itself enough from its narrative to act solely as a commentary on the human condition.
The film gives the classic love story an innovative twist, favouring depictions of loneliness and a discussion about humanity as a whole. But perhaps by awkwardly swaying so far towards its social duties, Anomalisa ended up losing its heart.
I knew fairly little about High Rise – I’d been told what I was going to think of it based on my usual cinematic tendencies, and I’d heard about Tom Hiddleston. All about Tom Hiddleston. The film sees the dashing leading man take a Wonderland-esque trip down the rabbit hole and back up again, up into the high-rise.
Based on the book of the same name by JG Ballard, the story behind High Rise isn’t exactly new to cinema screens – art has developed a habit of depicting class struggles in whatever way is most relevant. Snowpiercer not too long ago took this to the icy future while The Hunger Games took its last bow in the Capitol. We enjoy seeing fictional projections of ourselves squirm, in a fantastical but worryingly not too distant reality.
But where the depiction of these issues can become overcast and somewhat trying, in High Rise the story spirals completely and thrillingly out of control. What seemed from the opening sequence to be the set-up for a pretty linear dystopian narrative in the 70s, becomes an all-consuming and electrifying kaleidoscopic epic.
Although the disjointed and convoluted nature of the film can be unappealing at times, providing too much to swallow with not enough actual meat (Inherent Vice I’m looking at you), High Rise counters its dizzying format with a real awareness of its stylistic potential, blessing audiences with futuristically slick settings and dark, sharp and incredibly sexy characters. Even at times where you do wonder what the hell is going on, a knowing look of grit, despair or lust from Dr. Laing reassures you that someone most definitely does. And surprisingly, that becomes enough.
High-Rise is refreshing, although think less breath of fresh air and more slap in the face. It takes a conventional story prototype and rips it from all comfortable ties, giving its issues a higher platform and voicing a scream here as opposed to a watered-down whimper. The film shows an edge to its source text, and instead of religiously embodying it, Wheatley’s frantic odyssey gives the audiences a lot more to chew on.