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The Lobster - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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cinema_holic
The Lobster
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Directing: A-
Acting: A-
Writing: A-
Cinematography: A-
Editing: A-



Whenever I tell people Colin Farrell's character, David, chooses to be a lobster in the event that he's turned into an animal after failing to find a new partner at the end of 45 days, they always want to know why. Good question! David is asked the very same thing in the film: "Why a lobster?" And then, when he rattles off several reasons, it actually makes sense. It's good that he chooses such an obscure animal anyway; most people choose to become dogs, which is why there are so many dogs in the world. And why so many species are endangered, because not enough people choose to be turned into them.

The same question could be asked of the very concept of The Lobster, which presents this dystopian world in which only coupled people (heterosexual or homosexual) are accepted members of society. But again, once you see the entire film, the allegorical implications yield an unexpected level of brilliance.

If you are suddenly single, if you get dumped or widowed, you are sent to this hotel that's basically a prison run like a resort. You have 45 days to find someone new, and if you don't, then you're turned into that animal. Any animal you want, though. This makes for some amusingly subtle sight gags throughout the movie, much of which takes place in the woods -- with the random species of animal walking past in the background. A pink flamingo. A two-humped camel. There are dogs, of course.

David's brother is a dog now. He came to the facility a few months before and "didn't make it," as they put it. This dog is later used as one of many instances in which The Lobster, which is often shockingly funny, goes to unexpectedly very dark places. "Guests" of this hotel are not permitted to masturbate, the punishment for which is to get your hand burned in the slot of a toaster -- right at your table in the dining room. And when it comes to the dark places this movie goes, that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The Lobster remains a delightful surprise in a multitude of ways. You'll still be thinking about it long after the credits roll, and the more you think about it, the greater the depth of appreciation becomes. Director and co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos is here offering a truly unique an incisive look at the nature of relationships, loneliness, longing, and in particular, the way partnered people and single people judge each other. It's a definitively alternate reality but a fully realized world. Everyone speaks in this odd, deadpan tone, and yet the acting is great; this is one of Colin Farrell's best performances. And not just because he gained 40 lbs for the role.

The people in the hotel can extend their 45 days by hunting and tranquilizing "Loners" that live out in the woods. One particularly heartless woman is so good at this that she's bought herself several extra weeks. She hunts without remorse. Eventually the setting switches to the Loners, who have an established society with rules of their own, just as fanatical as those who run the hotel. They're free to masturbate all they want, but are not allowed to be romantic, for which there are equally brutal punishments. And yet, when the Loners launch a coordinated offensive against the hotel, they take things in an unexpected direction that proves to be ingenious.

It's out here that David meets his actual match (Rachel Weisz), so they have to come up with elaborate secret communications so the rest of the group doesn't suspect. In this new context, other terrible things happen. Funny things happen too. Well, we think they're funny. No one in this world ever laughs. They're all just desperate -- either to find a match or to stay single. But whether in the hotel or in the woods, The Lobster is populated with fully rounded supporting characters, even a woman who turns out to be rather villainous. In fact, among many things that makes The Lobster superior to most other movies in theatres right now, it's packed with strong female characters.

The men are generally the weak ones, including the two friends David meets at the hotel, each played wonderfully by John C. Reilly and Ben Wishaw. More than one of these guys establishes a partnership, and thus a relationship, on the basis of a calculated lie. They can't stomach the alternative. They do things to themselves, and to each other, that are sometimes peculiarly horrifying in the service of these goals.

The Lobster is not particularly straightforward about any of this, as it commits so completely to its allegorical allusions. Some of it did go slightly over my head. A lot of it might go over other people's heads. This is the kind of movie that a lot of people might not quite get. But for the ones who do get it, the more consideration it gets, the more impressive it is. This is a film truly in a class of its own.

John C. Reilly, Ben Wishaw and Colin Farrell are single men facing terrible choices in THE LOBSTER.


Overall: A-
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