The Lobster’s first half might be a perfect movie, and while the second half doesn’t quite stack up, it’s still one of the best alternative reality films I have ever seen.
In the world of The Lobster, if you are single you are at risk of being an outcast. Your outcast status exists in either one of two ways; you either live in the wilderness on the run from capture or you attempt to recouple in a designated hotel where you can earn extra days from a single person’s fate by hunting down the loners on the run. That fate for failure to recouple or eventual capture is that you are turned into an animal. At least at the hotel you get to pick your animal.
Now, that is a pretty weird premise for most, but the weirdness works incredibly well thanks to some amazing world building by director/writer Yorgos Lanthimos. Watching him slowly reveal the in and outs of this society, playing on the social normative ideas of romance and couples, the film was wowing me non-stop I was laughing my head off at the dark comedy. Every new detail is another brilliant reveal and Lanthimos just continues to expertly build, and build, and build. Lanthimos is a twisted mind, and I hope this isn’t his only english language entry.
The inherent silliness of the premise wouldn’t work if the cast couldn’t pull it off, but they do in spades. Colin Farrell is the titular, wannabe, Lobster and he is as good as he’s ever been. Everyone in this hotel is, quite appropriately, socially awkward, and Farrell transforms himself in a way we have never seen before. He’s never been so weird, or so funny, as Farrell continues to be, quite possibly the most underrated actor of his generation. John C. Reilly stars as a lovable buffoon staying at the hotel, and few people do buffoonery like Reilly does. Ben Whishaw is cold and hilarious with his awkward manipulation, while Angeliki Papoulia is cold and heartless to often just as hilarious effect. Rachel Weisz shows up in the film’s second half and is in full on endearing mode. She has an edge to her, for sure, but the way she bounces off Farrell is fantastic and she is able to play odd weirdo as good as anyone.
Léa Seydoux factors into the back half of the film as a leader of loners, and while here sadistic presence is perfectly well handled by her, the character itself is sort of the weak point of the film. Her motivations for what she does is never clear to me, and while I get that a society set to one extreme is bound to breed a counter reaction that is just as extreme, Seydoux’s leader’s twisted games can’t be supported by that inverse reaction. I don’t need her motivations spelled out, I just need a hint as to why she gets so goddamn evil. This isn’t really a big strike against the film, but it takes the film to an even darker place I wasn’t ready to go to, especially with all the fun I was having in the hotel.
The Lobster is as about as unique as a film can get. The original vision from Lanthimos is why I go to the movies, and while he doesn’t nail it 100%, he comes pretty damn close. The ensemble is excellent, the world building is perfect, you will be hard pressed to find a better dark comedy this year. The Lobster is a weird one, but it’s weird in all the best possible ways. Don’t miss it.