ANIMATION; 1hr 30min
VOICES BY: David Thewlis, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan
The arresting drama is animated but not cartoonish
The stop-motion puppets in writer and co-director (with Duke Johnson) Charlie Kaufman's bedazzling slipway to despair seem more eerily alive than life. With their sleepwalkerish movements, sharp facial lines that make their skin look sewn-on and the male and female characters (Thewlis and Leigh aside) all uniformly voiced by Noonan, this hermetically sealed setting is at once identifiable and off-centre. And so it is that customer-service guru Michael Stone's plane descent into Cincinnati and his subsequent taxi ride to and arrival at the plush Fregoli Hotel are as mundane as the real, earthly deal yet wholly absorbing in their trance-like precision.
Michael (Thewlis) is a middle-aged Brit now living in Los Angeles, married with a young son and in Cincinnati to give a talk. And of course, he's brought his demons with him: still haunted by an 11-years-past relationship and generally overwhelmed by people, he is psychologically lost. An intimately rendered sexual encounter with a sunny, worshipful stranger (Leigh as Lisa) is a warming ray of light. But being that Michael is also Kaufman's afflicted creation, his existential angst is destined to deepen into an unnerving drowning pool.