The Lobster

'The Lobster'

Release: Friday, May 13, 2016 (limited) 

[Theater]

Written by: Yorgos Lanthimos; Efthymis Filippou

Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos

Outré black comedy The Lobster might be likened to a religious experience for those looking for their fix of anti-Valentine’s Day sentiments. If you look hard enough you  could even find enough evidence to validate its romance label as well, but it’s so weird and so brutally dispassionate, even the most bitterly spurned, those who firmly believe they’re forever damned to loneliness, may become exhausted in their effort to keep up with its madness. And really, this dystopia is quite mad:

Single people are being persecuted; they’re getting abducted from The City — somewhere in England or Ireland if accents are anything to go by — and brought to an isolated hotel miles away where the staff insist they find a suitable romantic partner within 45 days, otherwise they will be transformed into an animal of their choosing and cast out into the woods beyond. Turns out, it’s neither a joke nor a mind game. There’s a room actually called The Transformation Room where, apparently, it all goes down. Should the unlucky sod find him or herself still single on day 45, Olivia Colman’s hotel manager advises them to partake in some activity that they won’t be able to once transformed. A one-night stand, for example, would be a waste of precious time given that animals still have the ability to fornicate.

Our best chance for understanding how the world operates in The Lobster lies in David (Colin Farrell) and his journey from being recently dumped to finding companionship in the most unlikely of places. And I know that’s a cliché, but I’m talking the epitome of unlikely places; so much so that the symmetry is almost cloying when he runs into Rachel Weisz’ Short-Sighted Woman after his ordeal at the hotel. He escapes and finds a group of stragglers abiding to their own equally radical but opposing ideals: The Loners, led somewhat ironically by Léa Seydoux and constituted by fellow hotel escapees, are vehemently against the pursuit of romance and intimacy.

Dress codes and segregative practices — you can extrapolate the latter to the two major factions we come across, as well as to the way single people and couples are treated differently in The Hotel — lay the groundwork for brutal revelations: in this world, the sum total of who we are is measured by our ability to attract a mate. Single people are lower down in the social hierarchy than couples. Sex isn’t much more than a survival strategy; it’s procreation, not love, that conquers all. The steel-blues and grays of Thimios Bakatakis’ cinematography reinforce an achingly melancholic mood.

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, in his fifth feature presentation, tackles the loneliness and despair of single-hood, an approach that dovetails nicely with the sacrifice of being in a relationship and he does so with a conviction as forceful as an avalanche against a lone pine tree. Strange, stilted dialogue castrates the piece of humanity, while the frankness of conversations recalls Wes Anderson . . . really, really pessimistic Wes Anderson.

One might naturally assume Lanthimos has it out for those who can’t help but remain stubbornly (or maybe just hopelessly) single, but he’s actually more critical of the societal pressure that falls upon everyone to couple up. While there are few rules governing how “loners” should meet others, The Hotel encourages bonding over physical traits, even ailments and/or disabilities, no matter how superficial those connections may seem. Ben Whishaw’s Limping Man goes to some extreme lengths to get with this girl he likes who happens to suffer from frequent nose bleeds. John C. Reilly is convinced once he meets a woman with a speech impediment like his he’s set for life. Suicide entices some to escape in a different way. All of this becomes a driving force for David to make the decisions he makes.

There’s not a lot of happiness in The Lobster. I think that much is obvious. But it bears mentioning again. The warning sirens must be heard clearly before too many enter the film with certain expectations. It’s one of the most brutal black comedies I’ve seen, capped off by one of the most memorable endings 2016 has yet produced. Presently I struggle to reconcile my enjoyment of Lanthimos’ work, when only two years ago, I was babbling incessantly about my distaste for John Michael McDonagh’s similarly pessimistic Calvary. The two share more in common than I really would like to admit.

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 12.22.09 AM

Recommendation: The mileage one gets out of this cynical view on modern relationships I think will depend on one’s own propensity for being cynical themselves. Performances are universally strong, although this is very much a ‘message’ film. However, that message is unlikely to make an impact upon those who can’t latch on to the absurd tone, dialogue/speech patterns and occasionally shocking developments. This is quite a heavy watch but it’s also one of the most unique releases 2016 currently has on tap.

Rated: R

Running Time: 119 mins.

Quoted: “Why a lobster?” / “Because lobsters live for over one hundred years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and stay fertile all their lives. I also like the sea very much.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited. 

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com

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25 thoughts on “The Lobster

  1. Pingback: CRUISIN’ ROUND THE BLOGOSPHERE | epileptic moondancer

  2. Nice review man. This was such an inherently bizarre and completely unique film. But I guess I knew to expect something like this based on Dogtooth. Can’t wait to see what Lanthiomos does next.

    • Thanks Khalid. I really want to see Dogtooth now. I might be wrong but I read somewhere that it is an even harsher, more bleak comedy than this. Kind of hard to believe if you ask me!

    • Yeah you’ve gotta just push through the noise and see these things for yourself sometimes. Don’t let what other people say (including this guy!) tell you how you should think or what to believe. The Lobster is pretty great stuff but it may only be that way for those with particular sensibilities. People who like Adam Sandler and Chris Rock, for example, will not enjoy this. I’m actually not even sure if this movie you are meant to ‘enjoy’ necessarily. I think it’s just something you have to let happen to you….

    • Somehow it did, at least for me. I’ve seen and even understand other people who didn’t enjoy it. I don’t think it’s a film you can “enjoy” really.

  3. Yay!!! AWESOME that you liked this man! Its a brutal black comedy sure, but I have never laughed so much in my life. After three watches I still can’t help but laugh and Farrel’s deadpan delivery. Great write up, pretty much exactly what i thought

    I do find it very strange though that this was released in October/November of last year down here. Bizarre!

    • I can’t say I really laughed out loud all that much. This didn’t strike me as that kind of comedy. But, and if I may say this without sounding dramatic, some deeper part of me was constantly amused by the utterly ridiculous oppressiveness of The Hotel. Certainly one of the most unique pictures I’ve seen since I’ve been blogging man. I have to say. I don’t know if you recall, but I think I said to you I was thinking this had to be the stupidest premise I’d heard of. I carried a lot of caution going into this obviously so it was a real treat to come out liking it 🙂

      • Hehe yeah I do remember you saying that, I’m glad you liked it. Interesting how you saw he humour. For me I was laughing like a child, slapping my thigh and holding my hands over my mouth to not annoy others too much because I just couldn’t stop laughing ;P

        I’m glad the bizarre premise gave you a movie you liked though. It was my favourite from last year by far 😀

  4. Strong work Tom. Good to see you’re keeping busy on the site; I’ve taken a little time off since the blogathon. That was enough for me for a little while!

    • You have to take time for yourself every now and then Mark! Yeah I’ve had a few reviews backed up for awhile so those weren’t a lot of effort but I could probably go for a break myself soon. Especially as we’ve been in that stretch of very, very iffy weeks in the late spring/early summer calendar . . .

  5. This was interesting. I was on board at first. The silly rules at the Hotel are ridiculously wicked. The initial half at the Hotel was rather amusing. I enjoyed that. Once he goes into the “wild”, I found the movie lost a major component of what made it special.

    Some interesting ideas though. Certainly unique. I’m kind of isolated in my thoughts though. This has gotten universally positive reviews from the critics so I’m clearly in the minority.

    • Nah, I’ve read plenty of reviews that have hammered it for being too self-conscious in its weirdness. All the arguments for it being pretentious I can sort of see. The Lobster is wickedly cold and though the dialogue feels kind of like something you hear in a Wes Anderson movie — it’s so direct and oddly impersonal — it’s a very very pessimistic Wes Anderson.

      I actually thought the film maintained the same level of intrigue when it switches to the forest. Lea Seydoux does a lot for me though, so that might have been the case for me. 🙂

  6. Nice review Tom. I loved the first half of the movie but found the last hour to be kind of flat. I thought that Farrell and Weisz gave excellent performances but Lanthimos’ direction is so distinctly cold The Lobster’s often hard to enjoy. It’s probably a film I appreciated more than liked.

    • I think there’s an argument that the film gets a little weaker when it leaves The Hotel behind since what goes on there is certainly the greatest source of the weirdness. But I liked the direction it took when it went off in to the woods. Some I guess could find the very existence of The Loners a total cliche and maybe even a cop-out but I think it worked. This was a very memorable movie, but I totally agree. It’s cold, bitter tone is likely going to leave a lot of viewers scratching their heads

    • Another great use of the wow tag, eh? Shit I’m glad I’ve been doing that then! 😀 Imagine the reviews you’d be missing if you weren’t seeking that out? 🙂

      Do check this out though, not just for the tag. It’s a bonkers little black comedy that I think you will like. It’s certainly different.

      • xD Just IMAGINE! Whenever I see “wow”, I just have to come see which side of the spectrum you fell on for that tag haha!

        I absolutely will. I love black comedies, they really do appeal to me, and this one looks pretty darn good. Hope it pops up here sometime soon.

  7. Great stuff Tom. I think we share a very similar outlook with regard to this film. It’s one that I really liked last year, and I keep thinking it should have been higher on my end of year favourites list, but ultimately I think it drops off when the action moves away from the hotel to the woods; the characters in the hotel are more interesting, and the situations they’re placed in are funnier. I keep meaning to watch it again, and will do at some point.

    • It seems the shift into the second and third acts is a problem for a lot of people. I didn’t mind it actually. I felt there had to be a kind of contrast from this god-awful Hotel place and Lanthimos used a faction who believed in essentially the opposite — perhaps too overt a strategy, I give you that — to convey what other options there are in this entirely ridiculously harsh world these characters inhabit. This is such a scathing movie man, I really kind of dug that about it.

      • Yeah, it’s quite bleak too, especially given that the supposedly free society out in the woods is also governed by petty, unnecessary rules and a similar kind of hierarchy to the hotel.

    • Great to hear another person on my side of the fence. This is quite the divisive little movie I understand. Either you love it or you loathe it!

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