Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman
Yorgos Lanthimos’s first English language film will stand out as 2016’s most peculiar film (although it played most film festivals last year). It should ignite fans of films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind or I Heart Huckabees, as it seeks to bewilder the romance genre to an unrecognizable point. Its weirdness is its charm however, at least in the first hour. The Lobster welcomes the viewer into such a bizarre world, many won’t grasp the comedy, but there is brilliance in the writing. It’s the second half of the film that segments its chance at greatness. The performances from the entire cast are dedicated and surreal. The Lobster’s first hour is some of the most enjoyable time I have spent in the cinema this year.
In a relatively near dystopian future, single people are treated like a parolee. David (Farrell), a widower, is taken to The Hotel, where he will begin his process at finding a new companion. Individuals who do not find a mate within 45 days will be turned into the animal of their choice. David chooses a lobster, which The Hotel manager (Colman) compliments is an excellent choice. “Most people choose something dull like a dog. That’s why you see so many dogs”, she says. David survey’s his choices of women, even though he originally asked if there was a bisexual option. “That option is no longer available”, he is told. It becomes clear the The Hotel experience will not provide him with a happy life, and he searches for a way to escape.
Some of the most enjoyable time I have spent in the cinema this year.
Everything about The Hotel experience is downright hilarious. If the guests are caught masturbating (which is one of the many things that’s prohibited), their hand of choice is put in a toaster. Everyone’s first day results in one of their hands being handcuffed behind their back, to reinforce the power of two. At every opportunity, the power of coupling is promoted as the only way of living. The Lobster goes well beyond dark humor, dry comedy. The funniest combination here is playing these parts so serious but the audience understanding how absurd it is. Weisz’s character narrates the film from the beginning. She is called simply referred to as the Short Sighted Woman. Everyone but David is labeled by their defining characteristic and nothing else.
Once we leave The Hotel, the film isn’t funny anymore. It becomes something else, more like a survival film as David enters into another group with a completely opposite set of rules (togetherness is forbidden, and brutally punished). The Lobster still retains a sense of interest, because you want to see it through, and where this character will end up. The film as a whole never offers the viewer a single normal moment that might relate to anything else you have seen on screen before. Love has never been represented both this difficult or strange to my knowledge. If the script could have found a plausible way to keep the entire story within The Hotel, sustaining that momentum, this would have been one of the year’s best films.
An ingenious comedy that’s as divisive as it is hysterical.