Review: The Lobster
When you create a world that looks like our own, but where the ground rules are entirely different, exposition is key. How you go about explaining to the audience how this world is different from their own, even when it looks the same, is no easy task. So it was a pleasant surprise when The Lobster, a dystopian dark romantic-comedy set in the near future, brought the audience into its world with a casual ease. Yorgos Lanthimos' film confidently explains the bizarre backdrop for what actually turns out to be a thought-provoking story.
The ground rules are fairly simple, even if extraordinarily peculiar. In the City, single people are taken to the Hotel, whether they are given 45 days to find a mate. If they fail to do so, they will be turned into the animal of their choice and released into the forest. While at the Hotel, they are bombarded with cartoonish propaganda reminding them of the benefits of companionship. As recreation, they are allowed to hunt "loners" who have escaped the Hotel. For each such loner they tranquilize and capture, they are given one extra day in the Hotel.
David (played wonderfully by Colin Farrell) finds himself in the Hotel, accompanied by his brother, who is now a dog after his own stay in the Hotel. He makes friends with a man with a lisp and another with a limp. Together, they expose the audience to the ins and outs of the Hotel and provide the audience with various takes on the foundations of attraction, relationships, and societal norms and pressures. These are the strongest elements of the film.
Where the film runs into trouble is when David escapes to the forest and tries to become a loner. It is there he meets a short sighted woman (played by Rachel Weisz), who he begins to have feelings for. As they try to figure out how to be together even they are loners (which comes with its own set of social norms), the film explores the lengths people will go to maintain companionship.
With uncomfortable silences and even more uncomfortable dialogue, The Lobster is best described as a dark romantic-comedy with an offbeat sense of humor. There is almost nothing here one would describe "sexy" and even less one would describe as "warm," but Farrell's performance somehow has enough heart to keep you intrigued even when the film is not seeking to appeal to your senses. Dark chords overlay the muted color palette and awkward situations blend into one another to create a hyper-stylized look at the nature of relationships. Farrel's de-glam turn (the actor put on 40 pounds of fat for the role) is filled with constant reminders of how complicated relationships can be and the choices one must make everyday.
The film's strengths are in its contemplations of love. Is it reasonable to base a relationship on trivial commonalities like nosebleeds and limps? If not, is it really any less legitimate than the things you think love should be based on? These are the kinds of questions the film poses in its most poignant moments. This totally unique concept lost its luster for Act III reasons I will not reveal here, but it suffices to say this may be the most unique experience you have at a movie this year. Whether or not you love it is an entirely different story. It is arrestingly brilliant in spots and will likely stick with you regardless of whether or not it is your particular cup of tea.
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