What a film to round out my annual end-of-year existential pilgrimage down the California coast.
It’s an overplayed story — Michael, the unhappily married middle aged businessman spending a night at a hotel, looking for…he’s not entirely sure what. He meets a woman, Lisa, who has a female voice — an anomaly in his world where every single person has the same exact male voice. It doesn’t matter that she is plain in every other sense —to him, she is special. That’s just how love happens sometimes, right?
The stop-motion animation inspects every detail of this particular night in the hotel Fregoli (named after a psychological disorder)— the wallpapered hallways, the downstairs bar, the hotel room and its generic furniture. We revisit the generic small talk that is carried out on the faces of these puppets. We watch the puppets make love — with all the sagging flesh and imperfections of aging bodies—and this convinced me that perhaps Michael has found the one.
He makes grand plans for the future throughout the night. But in the morning, her voice morphs into the same as everyone else’s — she’s lost that specialness.
I saw it coming. This animated film captures so much of the core of what I struggle with — the tingle of magic in meeting a special someone, only to have it fade as quickly once things become routine, that torturous, inevitable letdown. Michael perceived every additional sentence that came out of Lisa’s mouth to be banal utterances. His face turned to horror at this woman sitting across from him, no longer so anomalous.
Perhaps he is a pathetic self-involved man whose expectation of others is so rigid and unattainable that the only sweet female voice he can hear is that of a beautiful Japanese talking doll (She sings and hobbles around robotically in the closing scenes of the film). But can we blame him?
Our society celebrates individuality. My generation believes that everyone is unique (him/herself especially). But every person uses snap judgments on others that perhaps aren’t so forgiving. And when it comes to looking for the one, how can anyone live up to these expectations?
All this being said, I’ll probably re-watch this film in ten years and have a completely different takeaway.