If you could be any animal in the world, what would you be? It’s often a question used to break the ice in a first date, or a personality question hiring managers use on prospective interviewees, but in The Lobster, it is a question that turns into a reality. In “The City,” single people are taken to a hotel to find love.
Great, right? Well, not really. They have only 45 days to find a partner, or they get turned into an animal of their choosing. For David (Colin Farrell), he’s chosen to become a lobster should he fail. As he gets closer to the deadline, he finds that being a crustacean is not something he wants to become, neither is love something he wants to be forced to find. But what else is out there beyond the hotel walls? And if he does find love, will everyone be so accepting of it?
Both about love and the absence of it, director Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster may be dealing with conventional themes befitting of a conventional romance, but this isn’t a conventional film. Honestly, this is reason alone to spend time at this bizarre hotel, even if the stay isn’t without some personal troubles.
Working with one of the more unique premises seen in quite some time for a romance, The Lobster draws the viewer in with the being turned into an animal bit, but really, that doesn’t play as much into the proceedings as expected. Not ready to say that is a bad thing; it just feels that aside from one midway moment in the movie (and perhaps, that was the reason why that part of the plot exists), the transformation and/or its importance is never examined.
Still, the happenings at this city hotel in the first half of the film are delightfully bonkers. The rules and seminars are unbelievable, to spoil any would be a shame on yours truly to do so. The narration by what turns out to be an unreliable narrator is great. It is here that Lanthimos’ satire of 21st century romance clicks the best, from common interests to the simple act of not wanting to be alone. Furthermore, the orchestral pieces by Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich add to the film’s overall minimalism, dark humor, and coldness.
Lanthimos’ first half of The Lobster is simply bizarre, and possibly too bizarre for some viewers. But, the allure of all that goes on during it is unforgettable. It is the second half that is surprisingly dull once the hotel falls into the background of the plot. By no means is this an energetic piece, but the pace absolutely, for my money at least, slows down significantly to the point of lost interest. Any statement about romance feels lost during this point in the runtime. It does rally near the end, and Yorgos ends the film with a beautiful shot that leaves the viewer deciding the fate of the main characters.
Colin Farrell rarely, if ever, disappoints in movies he appears in, but at this point in his career, he talents seem best suited in quirky and offbeat productions such as In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths. The Lobster is along those lines. Farrell just has this look about him as a bespectacled mustachioed person who just screams pathetic with his passiveness and somewhat self-inflicted malaise, but he’s still a guy that one wants to see do well. His chemistry with Rachel Weitz, also great here, is noticeable, and gets movie through its meandering phase. Others, like John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, and Léa Seydoux round out the cast. They don’t necessarily have well-rounded characters (Reilly & Whishaw are more representations than anything), but they do fit into the movie’s strangeness.
The Lobster doesn’t seem concerned with being a satisfying watch. But, it does have a unique taste. A taste that may linger for a while, others not so much.
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