Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The Lobster (AFI Fest 2015)

A darkly funny meditation on romance and relationships, The Lobster uses a high concept in order to explore some of the universal truths of love in 2015. It's one of the year's weirdest movies, and while it walks the line of surreality and absurdism, there's an undercurrent of sadness and heartbreak to it that grounds the story even during its most outlandish moments. The Lobster is a rich exploration of modern love, and its eccentric personality makes it feel like the work of a creative force who sees the world like no one else.

The Lobster
Co-Writer/Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Lea Seydoux, Rachel Weisz

That high concept I mentioned? It goes like this: The movie takes place in a world in which cities consist only of couples, and all single people are taken to an isolated hotel and given 45 days to fall in love and find a suitable mate. If they fail, they are turned into an animal of their choice. (Yes, you read that correctly.) There's also a group of Loners who live in the woods near the hotel who refuse to play along, defiantly remaining single and punishing their own members who even hint at flirting or falling in love. The hotel guests hunt these people with tranquilizer guns every day, and a day is added to their stay for each unconscious Loner they bring back.

While the characters takes this all very seriously, director Yorgos Lanthimos is very aware of the inherent ridiculousness of it; he and co-writer Efthymis Filippou pepper in humorous moments throughout to let us know that they're in on the joke. (Example: the woods are full of random animals walking by in the background, meant to be characters who "didn't make it.") But while the movie is often funny, it just as often feels like a smart (if admittedly strange) satire of the pressure put on single people to be in a relationship. In our world, we're constantly bombarded with imagery that dictates the ideal scenario is to be married with children, and if you don't follow those guidelines within a certain amount of time, you're somehow considered an outcast by society at large. The Lobster takes it a step further and gives them an ultimatum, adding its own shortened ticking clock element to keep things moving quickly.

At the hotel's singles mixers and awkward dances, new couples are announced and praised, though they often just decide to get together based solely on sharing the same inadequacies (a limp, a perpetual nosebleed, etc). One duo, paraded around in front of the group, is described as "just having met two weeks ago but they are very much in love," which, in context, seems like a pointed critique of reality TV shows like The Bachelor that create forced circumstances designed to result in "true love."

The story takes a turn when the recently-divorced David (Colin Farrell) meets a Loner played by Rachel Weisz (who also narrates the movie), but to tell you any more about what happens would be to give away the film's bizarre surprises. The Lobster's weirdness may be off-putting to some, and it seems inevitable that a few will mistake the cast's deadpan delivery for bad acting, but everything in this strange little story is in service of Lanthimos' unique vision, resulting in a sad, funny, heartbreaking, laugh out loud movie unlike anything you've ever seen.

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