The Lobster

 photo lobster_zpsjfnskqu5.jpg photo starrating-2andahalfstars.jpgThe Lobster concerns a dystopian society where coupledom is key. Set within The City, singles are given 45 days to locate a partner or be turned into the animal of their choice. Upon arrival at the Hotel — more like a prison — guests must make a selection. This happens immediately regardless of whether one is successful at finding a mate. Apparently David (Colin Farrell) has just been dumped.  During his initial interview he chooses a lobster and hence bestows the film its title. “They live for over 100 years, they are blue-blooded like aristocrats, they are fertile all their lives and I like the sea.” At least that’s his reasoning. He’s praised for not choosing a dog because there is a surplus of that animal. I snickered a little at that line. If you actually guffaw, then you may adore this movie. That’s the level of humor.

Bizarre drama honors ambiguousness over detail and extols absurdity over coherence. It’s an intriguing setup for a comedy that creates a surreal environment from which to extract humor. The script succeeds for awhile. Particularly in the beginning where the insanity of it all can be rather diverting. But what is the point?  Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos possibly means to mock the societal pressure to couple up. Also the superficiality of the common interest that ultimately unites one person with another is satirized. Actress Jessica Barden plays a woman who gets nosebleeds. Actor Ben Whishaw portrays a man who has a limp. It appears that the two can only be together if they share the same malady.

Grim farce had me entertained for the first hour where David experiences the rules of the Hotel. His daily routine in which to find a companion is dryly amusing in parts. To prepare them for coupled life, patrons are initially handcuffed with one hand behind their back.  Then they converse with one another employing the stilted dialogue of a robot going through the motions of a conversation.  They have joyless sex with the employees like they were performing a chore.  Later guests hunt their unattached peers in the forest. The tale then takes a disastrous turn in part two after David escapes and experiences solace with a radical group in the wild called the Loners. They promote the exact opposite theology, separateness. It is there that he actually meets a soulmate in fellow Loner Rachel Weisz. Oh the irony! They’re prisoners yet again.

Yorgos Lanthimos also directed the extremely misanthropic comedy(?) Dogtooth. Devotees of that picture should find his disaffected worldview appealing here as well.  Less cynical individuals may discover his malevolent characters a bit harder to endorse. Surprisingly, I was on board. The silly rules at the Hotel are ridiculously wicked. But I checked out during the tedious second half.  Opening segments that fabricate the story should be absolute catnip for anyone who vehemently despises the very concept of a holiday like Valentine’s Day. If there’s such a thing as discrimination against singles, then this satire will surely hit home with any viewer who feels like a victim. Once the script throws the foundation kit and caboodle out the window, the fable emerges merely as an excuse to parade a group of antisocial types around for the viewer’s pleasure. These people are really hard to embrace, especially in the second section where the narrative and the jokes come to a grinding halt. To like these people is clearly not the aim. However after spending 118 minutes with these thoroughly unpleasant people, I wish I was a lobster too.

05-28-16

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18 Responses to “The Lobster”

  1. Oh yes, much of this movie was catnip for me. I’m so freakin’ cynical when it comes to things like Valentine’s Day it’s not even funny. But what is funny is how we went into this with ‘opposite’ mindsets — I dreaded what I would experience in this — and we emerged with just-as-opposite reactions. I actually really, really enjoyed this (even if i didn’t understand the point of most of it, I will admit).

    • They should’ve stayed in The Hotel. That is where all the humor lay. Once he escapes it lost everything that made this movie interesting.

      • I disagree, only in that I think the tie in with Rachel Weisz was actually really fascinating and I liked the symmetry of them being in danger as a “couple” in this Single People’s Club in the middle of the woods, and all the single people being pressured to not turn into some animal at the Hotel. It showed how these people — admittedly really hard people to empathize with — actually could get into a relationship that is natural and honest. Because many of the relationships we see forming throughout are built on questionable foundation. I will admit that I was checking my watch a lot towards the end of it though haha

      • I’m still confused by this film. The script mocked relationships built on superficial abnormalities (mutual nosebleeds for example). However Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz’ characters were united by their short-sightedness. I think we were supposed to view their relationship as a higher form of love than the others. I’m not sure. The ambiguous ending is of no help in discerning this. lol

  2. Nice review Mark. I loved the movie’s first half, which I found to be a very clever and insightful satire of the Internet dating scene, but the last hour felt too cold and it was difficult to embrace the characters. I enjoyed much of The Lobster but I think it’s a film that I appreciated more than I liked.

  3. Ahhh bummer you didn’t like the second half mate. I agree the jokes slowed down but they weren’t completely gone “we only listen to electronic music,. that is why we dance alone” was a line I loved. But I enjoyed the second half maybe even more as I loved the concept of the Loners.

    • I’ll admit there is some very funny dialogue in that section. My favorite:
      “We developed a code so that we can communicate with each other even in front of the others without them knowing what we are saying. When we turn our heads to the left it means ‘I love you more than anything in the world’ and when we turn our heads to the right it means ‘watch out, we’re in danger’. We had to be very careful in the beginning not to mix up ‘I love you more than anything in the world’ with ‘watch out, we’re in danger’.”

      • Ha Ha. I had forgotten that one. That was great. But I totally understand that a lot of people thought it tapered down in the second half. My mate who I saw it with last year thought the same thing.

  4. A tale of 2 halves. Enjoyed the first half very much. 2nd half wasn’t as good. Ending was, well….strange. 2 1/2 stars

  5. Seems I am with a few here as well. Great first half, funny dialogue, good classical music, I think pretty good social commentary as well.

    Second half, I was counting the time left. Does end on a great scene, but I don’t think this has any lasting impact, on me at least.

    • I’ll be cryptic about the ending…

      In my theater, two people walked out right at the end where Colin Farrell is contemplating something. I don’t know if they were repulsed or what, but it was odd given the fact they had sat through everything else.

  6. “Bizarre drama honors ambiguousness over detail and extols absurdity over coherence.” -It’s reading things like this that makes me question whether I’ll like The Lobster or not. I get what it’s trying to do, but I’m not sure if this movie will be for me. I fall under the category of “less cynical viewers” that you refer to, so I have a feeling I’d find the malevolent characters hard to endorse, as you say. Still, I feel like it will be hard to escape 2016 without seeing this one.

  7. smilingldsgirl Says:

    I so agree with you on this one. Intriguing premise but I grew weary of it after a while. I felt it just kept making the same point over and over again and till I wanted to scream at the screen “we get it!”. I found the flat characters too hard to relate to or care about and left feeling very irritated by the end. I gave it the same score because of the beginning and the originality but as far as experiences go I really didn’t like it.

    • “… it just kept making the same point over and over again…”

      Agreed. A shorter run time would have helped. At almost 2 hours, it’s overlong. A concise 90 minutes would’ve sufficed with the majority focused on the first half. I might have been persuaded to give this a pass had it been edited as such. As it stands, it’s a bloated exercise in misery.

      • smilingldsgirl Says:

        Amen “a bloated exercise in misery”! I feel this can be added to the long list of movies that would be better as a Twilight Zone episode

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