The Lobster – 2016
Director Yorgos Lanthimos
Screenplay Efthymis Filippou & Lanthimos
Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley, Ben Whishaw
I get it. There is a contingent out there who will love this film and it’s screenplay drolled to perfection by a cast that is as bewildered and browbeaten by conformity as we are at times. The Lobster has won a bunch of prizes and is destined to win even more. It’s the kind of film that is perfect for those who like to isolate themselves by liking a movie. There may be no better script presented this year, to be sure. The direction doesn’t miss a beat, either. Every scene, every angle: it all means something and much of it has a dark, grey beauty. That said, I can tell you without a doubt I will never watch this film again.
Starting off with the seemingly senseless death by handgun of a donkey in a field somewhere at the hands of an obviously spurned woman, we soon understand the premise and rules presented in this jarred version of the future. In this time, people are discouraged from being single. It’s illegal, in fact. When they find themselves in that way, they need to report to a hotel. While checking in, we discover that the guests have 45 days to find a mate or they will be transformed into “the animal of their choice.”
There are a series of rules in the hotel, some that stab away at loneliness, some that encourage conformity and one particularly bizarre hunting ritual that allow the hunters to extend their time by bagging a certain type of game. When we discover where this game comes from later, that solved mystery gives way to myriad new ones that seem designed to be rules for rules’ sake.
To call this dystopian is a misnomer, because it takes itself so seriously and follows its rules so intricately. There are no kids yearning to be free, either. It’s beyond absurd, and if it is funny, it’s also too cutting to produce more than a sympathetic smile from this viewer. I spent enough years being single to understand the agony and pressure inherent from a table for one.
There is a deliberate choice in the film to present every line with a different accent, but absolutely not one shred of emotion. Every character spends their time trying to calculate what to say in the effort to avoid detection of who and what they are, because we know there are consequences to being genuine.
Still, it bothers our protagonist David (Farrell) to the extent that when someone beats the game, he has to go out of his way to point it out. Then he discovers that in this world, just like their own, most are content with their own version of events. They don’t need to know the truth. They just need to know they beat the clock and can continue their sad clinging to delusion. It beats the alternative, even if that option is thought through.
The overall effect to me is somewhere between amused and nails on a chalkboard. This film has appeal to people I admire, and I cannot fault them their feelings. It’s a little too close to “Sprockets” for my taste. When I watch a movie or read a book, I am in for a different type of entertainment. I don’t need to touch anyone’s monkey but my own.
(***1/2 out of *****)