Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
You simply won't find another film quite like The Lobster (opening today). It's one of the strangest, most eccentric films of this or any year, and its first-half is deliciously entrancing. But the more tale that is served, the less satiating it becomes.
Colin Farrell plays David, an odd, quiet-and-collected man whose wife just left him (it's Farrell's best-performance of his career). David exists in a high-function dystopia, a world that does not allow for single persons to exist. In this universe, when you are divorced, or made a widow, you are checked into a place called "The Hotel" and you are given 45 days to find true love. If after 45 days, you fail to do so, you are literally transformed into an animal of your choice and cast out into the wild. David chooses to become a lobster, because as he says, lobsters stay sexually active for their entire lifespan, show no changes in metabolism or decline in strength over time, and can live incredibly long lives. His brother, a dog that follows David everywhere, chose a more popular animal to morph into once he didn't "make it" through The Hotel.
There are strict guidelines and exceptions too. Everyone at The Hotel dresses the same and must abide by the house rules at all times. Those that find compatibility are upgraded into the "couples" section of The Hotel, and if they show the ability to successfully co-exist, they are moved onto "The Yacht" for a few weeks. The Hotel's purpose is to churn out suitable couples who then are sent back to live in The City and lead respectable lives together as functioning members of society. If they have problems along the way, they are assigned children, because they say, children usually are the answer to a failing partnership and often times can curb the arguing and the fighting (ha!).
Outside of The Hotel live a group of people described as "Loners," who have escaped or rebelled against the authorities. During the 45 day stay, the - inmates? - are released out into the wild to hunt Loners. For every Loner that is killed and captured, a day is added on to your stay. Some residents are nearing their transformation following their 45 days, but others, such as Heartless Woman (Angeliki Papoulia) have accumulated well over 100 days at The Hotel by racking up the Loner-kills.
Sounds wacky right? It's every bit crazy as it is mesmerizing. David befriends Limping Man (Ben Whishaw) and Lisping Man (John C. Reilly) and they all wonder how they can find true love. Is Nosebleed Woman (Jessica Barden) a good match? Biscuit Woman (Ashley Jensen)? As you can see from all of their names, none of these individuals have any identities outside of their superficial attributes.
In creating this fascinating world, The Lobster successfully satirizes modern culture, although its reflections on conformity may have been a bit more pointed a decade or to ago. When checking-in, David is forced to place himself in specific categories that are easily identifiable. There are accepted cultural norms and activities that are universally frowned upon with The Hotel. People's only basic freedom is to dictate where they go when they die (sound familiar?). If you do not assimilate to what is considered "normal" or "acceptable" then you are shunned. Nobody in the film talks about personality, beliefs, or what is on the "inside" of a person. All match- making, in fact, is based on surface, cosmetic attributes (the Limping Man needs to find a girl who also limps, the Nosebleed Woman must find someone else whose nose bleeds, etc). All of this offers us some direct insights into our own perceived norms, and brings up some deeply challenging thoughts on the roles that religion, community and culture play in all of our lives...and how shallow and disturbing much of it is. Within a relationship even, what are we willing to do for someone else, and what is the ultimate purpose of our actions? Some very intelligent, clever observations are made. And after all of the absurdity we find within this movie, is it really any more crazy than the rules and "norms" we find in our own world? This movie says no, and I tend to agree.
But as the film enters its second-half - once David does find his way outside of The Hotel and falls in love with a Loner (Rachel Weiss) - the film loses its way and becomes a drifty, hollow, even pretentious, experience. What once worked as an unconventional love story devolves into weird, detached melodrama. It's a real shame, because the first-half really implies that this movie has something important to say. Interestingly, this group of "rebels" seems to have more rules in place than those that they are mutinying against.
The Lobster will definitely stand-out among all movies released in 2016, but in very un-lobster-like fashion, it loses strength and desirability the longer it claws along.
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance
Run Time: 1 hour, 58 minutes, Rated R
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden
Co-Written & Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (Alps, Dogtooth, Kinetta, My Best Friend)
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