James Cole Clay // Film Critic
It’s fun to laugh at the pain of others, that’s what makes comedy a great medium from the outside looking in– but for one moment, put yourself in the position of the character. That’s, in a way, what Yorgos Lanthimos’ third film and first English language film THE LOBSTER attempts to do except it’s grounded in surrealism with an impossibly left of centre tone.
In the near future, by some design, coupling is the key to success in this seemingly alternate universe. The government has cruelly exiled those with out partners to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a consort, or be sent into the wild and turned into an animal of their choosing. See, in even the most dire situations there’s always a silver lining, and Lanthimos’ script works with this sense of humor powering through the satirical premise.
David (Colin Farrell) is the center of the story as he embarks on what could potentially be his last 45 days as a human. There, he encounters several misfits with their own quirks ranging from a man with a limp (Ben Whisaw), a fella with a lisp (John C. Reilly), and a dame who gets bloody noses on the regular (Jessica Barden). All the while, the story is being narrated by an unknown voice (Rachel Weisz) who is later revealed to be “the short-sighted woman.” By the satirical tone, one could assume this would be related to her politics, but it just means she wears contacts.
Where THE LOBSTER finds the most success isn’t necessarily in tension, or any type of mystery; it’s in the black humor that’s cruel at times. But, once you get the swing of what’s going on, it becomes clear that Lanthimos is winking at the audience. For example, the hotel manager who appears to be judge, jury and executioner within this institution assures recently paired couples that if they are having disagreements to come have a chat, and if the problems persist they will give the couples a half-ling of their own– because most martial partners know this solves all of life’s problems.
The politics of this dystopia promote that checking the “in a relationship” box on your social profile means a happy existence filled with long walks, perfect conversations, and yes, lots and lots of sexual relations. However, David balks at this fact and suggests that he likes to listen to the music he wants to listen to at all times, he likes to walk alone, and he vocalizes his love for self gratification. It’s a wonderful performance that Farrell has mined for this film with comedic elements that are dry and partially slapstick with some impeccable comedic timing.
THE LOBSTER isn’t a narrative yarn and you wouldn’t expect this to be instantly quotable, but move over Judd Apatow, Lanthimos has got some zingers as well. It’s a wonderfully beautiful film in its own right that has been gaining a reputation on the festival circuit since it premiered at Cannes back in May.
This is the kind of film that just by explaining the premise is a conversation starter to be used at your next dinner party, just make sure to hold the cards close to your chest and don’t reveal your spirit animal.
THE LOBSTER screened during the opening night of Fantastic Fest last night and is slated for a 2016 release.