THE LOBSTER (2016)
reviewed by Audy Christianos
Writers: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden
Runtime: 119 min
Sound Mix: D-Cinema 48kHz 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Colin Farrell stars as David, a man who has just been dumped by his wife. To make matters worse, David lives in a society where single people have 45 days to find true love, or else they are turned into the animal of their choice and released into the woods. David is kept at the mysterious hotel while he searches for a new partner, and after several romantic misadventures decides to make a daring escape to abandon this world. He ultimately joins up with a rebel faction known as The Loners, a group founded on a complete rejection of romance. But once there David meets an enigmatic stranger (Rachel Weisz) who stirs up unexpected and strong feelings within him.
“It’s no coincidence that the targets are shaped like single people instead of couples.” This line delivered dry and acerbic to our protagonist David is the perfect encapsulation of what the movie haunts over him in the short window of time he has to find a new romantic match or be turned into the animal of his choice, a lobster, for all eternity. If this sounds hilarious it’s because it should be and is. The movie co-written and directed by Greek filmmaker, Yargos Lanthimos, mixes a gut-busting cocktail of three counts sharp deadpan wit with one count of social satire. The Lobster’s promise is so unabashedly unique that if I told you that I completely understood the whole movie, I would only be lying to you. It’s intentionally ambiguous. The fascination of this film is that for the first half, Lanthimos presents a subversive world within the hotel where nothing seems to make sense. As the movie begins, David checks in and is asked formal questions to prep him for his transition. He responds blankly. Farrell doesn’t let us in on exactly what his character is thinking and thereby we don’t know what to think - he lets the movie do all the talking.
Farrell, who has reinvented himself in the past couple of years, starting with his Golden Globe award winning performance as a convincing low-rent “heart on his sleeve hitman” in the crime caper In Bruges. From there he set down a path to where he has carved himself a small role corner that really fits him well. His looks want more but he could never deliver “star turns.” In movies, however, where his looks don't rely solely on them, he shines and this is that movie. His David looks beaten. Barely making eye contact with anyone, carrying weight all in his midsection, of metaphorical despair and tax accountant passivity. Farrell performs in such a downplayed nuanced hilt that you are forced to take him seriously regardless of your preconceived notions about him. He’s that good.
The film’s style lends to offbeat humor, with a sleepy undercurrent of lethargic mania. Action is played to madcap effect dramatizing the absurdity of it all. In the best sequence of the movie, the hotel guests are loaded onto a truck only to be dispatched to the woods to a “fox and the hound” shoot ’em up to hunt the “loaners” in the woods with the reward being for every loaner caught, an extra day is given to extend the patron’s stay.
The sequence is filmed drenched with the wonderful dreariness of Greek piano piece - Apo Mesa Pethamenos by Denai. The scenes give a melancholic wither that would make the Coen brothers' Miller's Crossing ending proud. Lanthimos' direction crescendos epically with controlled deviousness of David and the other guests slashing and swaying through the trees shooting tranquilizer darts at other humans (loaners) in order to maintain their own humanity or else finding time running short on their own. It’s all done with farcical aplomb.
With this energy and obscurity, The Lobster offers a fresh intensity with its commentary against the proxy of institutionalized social norms by hammering the theme that humans are no better than animals, regardless of man’s definition of civilization. Lanthimos could care less about telling it how he feels straight faced, as evidenced by his track record, because that would be boorishly dull and who wants that?
When first watching this I thought I had finally found the film I had been looking for for quite some time, and at many moments in the first half of the movie, it was that. However, like my review of Lenny Abrahamson’s academy award nominated The Room, once the movie shifted into our knowing of familiarity opposed to the unknowing of the first half’s warm but dreary moralistic macabre, the movie slightly loses its way. What saves it from not becoming truly disappointing with its conventional turn is Farrell’s lead, the movie’s art direction dripping with its satirical personality, and the loose way The Lobster presents itself while having substance to mock the world’s subjected hypocrisy on mating in its tranquilized cross-hairs.
3 out of 4 stars