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A biting and shocking satirical look at love and relationships that doesn’t quite stick the landing by the end.

 

The state of “date movies” in the 21st century is not unlike that of dates themselves: ever-changing. The overall meaning of the term date has changed dramatically, rendering the dichotomy between a date and finding love to be ever more opaque. With the onset of dating apps like Bumble and Tinder we humans may find it harder to experience the entire endgame of dating, that feeling of a spark or connection between two people. This shift can be seen not only on the streets but also in the cinema, as the general layout and makeup of the romantic comedy has shape-shifted itself over the last decade or so, from movies like Grease to a more alt-gen and offbeat style of filmmaking seen in 500 Days of Summer or, more loosely, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl. Naturally, it seems natural that at some point directors might examine this cultural shift and explore that change through their own eye, and a good result is Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.

​The plot is clear enough: Farrell’s David arrives as a single lad at an unnamed hotel in an unnamed city with the simple rule of finding a life partner in 45 days. Failure to do so will have you sent to a room wherein you’re turned into the animal of your choosing. Doesn’t sound like a bad gig, although a dog happens to be one of the more common requests, so try and pick something else (David’s is, expectedly, a lobster). As the movie begins to unfold we unravel more and more of this seemingly innocent hotel to reveal its more intricate rules. Masturbation is strictly forbidden, but sexual stimulation by one of the hotel’s attractive staff is required, daily, but reaching orgasm is absolutely forbidden. Dances are frequently held to try and get you out of your comfort zone, as are hunting trips, where the guests hunt escapees, called Loners, which bag you an extra day per tranquilized trophy. If you’re lucky (or attractive) enough to snag yourself a partner, you’re whisked away onto a nearby boat to live the lavish life of a fulfilling relationship, perhaps with children involved if such a thing is deemed necessary. During his stay, David befriends two fellow male guests, one with a lisp (played by John C. Reilly) and one with a limp (played by Ben Wishaw). Throughout their stay we see the man with the lisp get punished for masturbating by receiving a nasty burn involving a toaster, and the man with the limp bashes his nose to emulate the frequent bleeding of a female interest.

​What’s immediately evident is the complete lack of emotion in each sentence manufactured by the characters. For a movie about searching for love, the Hotel and the rules around it render the characters seemingly straight out of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, each guest floating through the days in a strict routine as the countdown is announced each morning over a speaker in their rooms. Men approach women (and vice versa), get shot down, and move onto the next activity. Breakfast is served to individual tables, and all clothing and personal items, the same for every guest, are supplied exclusively by the Hotel. It’s all so cold, tired, and robotic, these motions every guest goes through, and the movie never explains David’s reasoning for checking into the Hotel himself. The only backstory we get is the dog David brings in with him as he checks in – his brother – who obviously didn’t make it through his first visit however long ago.

the lobster

All of this emotionless cycle is further contrasted by being photographed gorgeously through cinematographer Thimios Bakatakis’s camera, often sitting in one place, just out of the way of the actors and most of which shooting with only natural light. It’s a strange, almost unsettling beauty when paired with the nature of life in this hotel. Every actor turns in a wonderful performance given the bland and mechanical nature of what was requested by Lanthimos.

The first half of The Lobster has David going through is new life in the Hotel over the next 45 days but after a certain amount of time, David finds himself a Loner outside of the hotel and into the lush forest surrounding it, inhabited by the Loners themselves, as well as the varied zoo of those guests who did not make it. The gang of escapees is led by Lea Seydoux’s character. It’s there that he runs into a woman, Weisz’s character, who happens to share David’s short-sightedness, and the love story the movie is about begins. But to me, that’s where the story goes off the rails a bit and becomes less clear on its intentions. I found myself enraptured in the world of the Hotel and the rules and stipulations therein, so it took me out of the experience to see all of that left behind. I wanted to explore more of that establishment; more time to unravel all that is hidden away, not yet discovered by David. After he escapes the Hotel, the plot gets unclear and meanders more than the first half, so after spending so much time engrossed in one area it was jarring and not quite handled as well as one would hope. Decisions are made seemingly out of nowhere and directions are gone without a clear explanation, a stark contrast from the almost too relatable decisions David made in the Hotel. It all made for a very anticlimactic and unsatisfying ending to walk away from.

Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster is a tricky movie, introducing the viewer to a unique and fully realized world only to strip much of those ideas away during the second half. This is a dark movie but also hysterical at times, a black comedy not often seen in the cinema world, and a movie that examines our own cultural mindset in just as surprising and shocking ways. While The Lobster isn’t a home run throughout the two-hour run time, it is still recommended by anybody hoping to see how the use of film can open your eyes to how complicated love really is.

 

Directed By: Yorgos Lanthimos

Written By:  Efthymis Filippou, Yorgos Lanthimos

Produced By:  Ed Guiney, Yorgos Lanthimos

Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Wishaw

Distributed By:  Picturehouse Entertainment

Released on: May 13th, 2016 (US)

Run time: 119 minutes

Rated: R

About The Author

Steve Carley

Steve Carley is a Michigan-born lover and resident of the film industry in Atlanta, Georgia. When he's not infiltrating the nearest Waffle House or giving up on the most recent movie-adapted book he can be seen lounging in his apartment complex's pool and regretting the way he wrote his Film Takeout bio.