Deliciously weird, satirically funny and dreamlike — bad dreamlike — The Lobster is the sort of visionary film that can only be created by a great provocateur.
It’s a dark, futuristic sex satire that depicts people behaving like robots because they have been taught to behave like robots.
Colin Farrell is a master class on deadpan hilarity as David, the sad-sack protagonist. David is a tubby loser, who in the film’s opening is being tossed out of his relationship because his wife has found a more desirable man. Farrell’s performance is as lifeless as a marionette, but in the most hilarious way possible.
Let me repeat: This is overweight, badly mustachioed Colin Farrell, so you understand this is a surreal film from the beginning. David is transferred to the depressing seaside hotel where, in this science-fiction society, singles have 45 days to find someone willing to love them and be loved in return. If they don’t, they will be transformed into the animal of their choice.
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People try to link up with someone who shares with them a physical deficit or some limited social point of view. They can postpone their conversion by joining a squad that tracks down those who have bolted from the hotel to live in the wild.
David’s brother, who was unlucky in finding love, asked to become a dog, because most people like dogs and that would be his last chance to experience human affection. Myopic David and two new acquaintances, the limping man (Ben Whishaw) and the lisping man (John C. Reilly), follow a daily humdrum of isolated breakfasts, over-formal lectures from the hotel’s married executives, and agonizing dances with the women. The limping man is disappointed to learn that a hobbling candidate has only a sprained ankle. It feels like dystopian speed dating.
If David, who is fond of shellfish, doesn’t quickly find his soul mate, he will probably be steamed, cracked at the shell and dipped in drawn butter. Instead, after failing to negotiate a relationship, he runs for the woods, where the singletons include a shortsighted woman with a rare capacity for kindness, acceptance and passion. Unfortunately for David, the group is policed by icy Léa Seydoux, whose rules against the natural processes of flirting and romance are as repressive as the control freaks at the dreary inn down the road.
This is the first English-language feature by Yorgos Lanthimos, a Greek filmmaker who was a foreign-language Oscar nominee. He has an offbeat sense of humor that favors absurdity. Lanthimos attacks hypocrisies in the way you might see if a Wallace and Gromit movie were made by Franz Kafka and Salvador Dali. People can end up mutilated in his movies, but ironically. He’s not nasty, but he’s fondly caustic about our species. He calls for not the thumbing of the nose at authority but cutting off authority’s nose with a linoleum knife.
This kind of art is not on many people’s wavelength, but those who connect to it will remember it 20, 30, 40 years later. It’s weird to use a term of affection about a movie that traffics in socially ruined connections, but I love this film.
Rated R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence. 1:58. Kentucky.