Score: 4.5 out of 5 

A few years back, when I was in my prime of Netflix binge watching, I watched this strange film called Dogtooth (2009). That was my time watching a film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos. The stream of new movies discovered or released will always be constant and endless. As a result, sometimes I forget movies only hours after watching them as I move onto the next one. For some reason Dogtooth stuck with me. The storyline was original but beyond that the mechanics and how characters talked and interacted was also unique. When I heard about the concept behind The Lobster (2015) and watched the trailers I was initially surprised to see it was written and directed by Lathimos. Unlike Dogtooth, this movie seemed much more comedic and quirky. After watching the movie I can totally see the similarities and I left the theater even more impressed by Lanthimos. I will ABSOLUTELY be keeping an eye out for his future works!

freedvdcover_the_lobster_2015_custom_front

Overview:

So I bet you’re wondering what this movie is all about, right? If you haven’t already, take a second to look at the picture above. Yup. The movie is as odd as it sounds. In this alternate universe, single adults register to be a part of a matchmaking program at The Hotel. Once at the hotel, people have 45 days to find a match or they are turned into an animal of their choosing and let loose. I’m hesitant to say people are forced to take part in these programs because the story never really explores that but it’s hard to imagine why anyone would volunteer if they didn’t have to. The story begins with David, a disinterested and slightly overweight middle aged man played by Colin Farrell, finding out that his wife is leaving him for another man. As a result, David and his dog/brother head to The Hotel where David’s 45 day timer begins to tick.

The Humor:

The main thing I liked about this movie was the humor. I want to be careful to preface this discussion by saying I wouldn’t recommend this movie to the majority of people I know. It’s simply too unorthodox! I can easily picture myself in a room full of friends that are staring at me like I’ve lost my mind because I’m laughing throughout this film that they don’t find funny at all. And that’s not meant to be a comment on having some sort of superior sense of humor or anything but this movie is just so deadpan and dark that I don’t think most people would find it as funny. In fact, those are the perfect two words to describe the humor of this film. Almost painfully deadpan and the blackest of comedies. I’ll give you some example to describe what I mean. Like I said, the film opens with David finding out his wife is leaving him for another man. Usually you’d expect this to be a very emotional scene yet he simply sits there and asks, “Does he wear glasses or contacts?” It’s not because he’s unhappy in the relationship but simply because no one seems to care about anything at all in this film in a hilarious way and all he cares to know is whether his wife’s lover wears glasses ,like he does, or contacts. There’s another scene where David is asked what animal he has in mind in case he can’t find a partner. He answers without hesitation with something along the lines of, “A lobster because they live over 100 years, remain fertile all their lives, and are blue blooded like aristocrats. I also really like the sea.” Clearly this film’s sense of humor is very difficult to describe but I promise it’s much funnier than it sounds! Other jokes include a man who bashes his head against walls to make his nose bleed in order to have something in common with a woman who suffers from chronic nosebleeds and nervous flirtation between hotel guests over the howls of a suffering woman’s failed suicide attempt.

the-lobster-2

The Visuals:

The next thing I really like about this movie are the visuals and camerawork. I know what you’re thinking, “What kind of movie reviewer is this guy? He never has anything bad to say about camerawork!” Well here I go again, the visuals here were fantastic! The camerawork wasn’t too creative in terms of angles or anything like that but the framing of shots was great. Off the top of my head, approximately two weeks later, I can still recall various stunning wide frames that captured so much in each shot. Besides framing, the visual style of the movie was also worth mentioning. I don’t know how to describe it, there’s great use of sepia tones and washed out gray colors that work very well together and make this a very pretty movie. The outdoors shots in particular reminded me a bit of Skyfall (2012), a movie that I really appreciate visually. And since I’m making comparisons, I don’t know how to put words to the style I’m describing but if you’ve seen Her (2013) then you’ll know what I’m talking about. The best way I can describe it is very neat and soft around the edges, everything seems to be in its place. Lastly, this may not be the correct category to highlight this under but I greatly enjoyed the running visual gag with the various exotic animals randomly appearing on screen in the backgrounds. These animals of course being guests of The Hotel who have been released into the wild.

 

the-lobster

The Characters:

Another aspect of this movie that I enjoyed was the interesting cast of characters. As I’ve noted in other reviews, often movies have great main characters or individual characters but side characters feel weak. That’s not the case here where every character feels unique. I think the movie really accomplished something on this front because, like I said, the humor and style is so deadpan that it would be so easy for the characters to seem flat or blend into each other but they don’t. Colin Farrell was fantastic! He really sold his character well which is saying something because he’s this former bad boy/heart-throb actor playing a sort of pudgy and pathetic guy who I surprisingly ended up caring and rooting for. Just as a side note, I never used to like Farrell. That’s putting it mildly, I REALLY disliked the guy for no good reason. Oddly enough I started to like him when I randomly watched Phone Booth (2003) randomly on tv (not a very good movie but pretty fun one). After that I stumbled upon In Bruges (2008), one of my favorite movies ever, and I really started to appreciate him and his choice of roles. More recently he was easily the best part of what was a very disappointing season of True Detective and I appreciate him for that. But back to the movie! The rest of the cast is kind of star-studded. Rachel Weisz plays The Short Sighted Woman aka the main love interest Olivia Colman plays The hotel Manager. John C. Reilly plays Lisping Man, one of the sadly hopeful hotel guests who David befriends. Lea Seydoux plays the batshit crazy, beautiful, and hilarious resistance captain, Loner Leader. Ben Wishaw is fantastic as Limping Man, another of the odd hotel gusts who David befriends. All of these characters have unique personalities and are truly memorable. Angeliki Papouila is especially worthy of praise. She was not on screen for very long and I don’t know much about her she was outstanding as The Heartless Woman. She was terrifying but in a really funny and outrageous way, major props to her.

IMG_1886.CR2

The Story (and Script):

While great characters and actors with good delivery are crucial for a great movie, a good story and script are at the very least just as essential. I clearly enjoyed the story and script of this movie, the unique concept is kind of the whole point. That being said, the story is also where my biggest complaints come from.

The Good: Everything the movie does well, it does REALLY well. The concept is very clever and kind of reminded me a bit of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), another one of my all time favorite movies. By that I mean that the story takes place in a world that’s grounded in a reality very close to ours yet there are elements of really strange, almost supernatural events that are happening. In Eternal Sunshine that’s the erasing of memories and to not knowing if what we’re seeing is inside Joel’s mind or a real life. In this movie that’s the turning of people into animals, clearly. All of Lanthimos’ films are meant to be social commentary on something or another. Here that thing is relationships and the various silly mechanisms society sets up to facilitate meeting people. I enjoyed that aspect of it because you may miss it at first given how explicitly absurd the plot is but when you think about it afterwards it starts to make sense. Movies like that are the kind that you end up reflecting on way after you watch them and that’s always a good thing.

One thing I should note is that the movie never explains the mechanics of how anything works. Why and how did society evolve to the point to where turning single people into animals is the law? Is this a global rule or just regional? How does someone even get turned into an animal? The movie is obviously aware of these unexplained aspects as it makes a couple jokes about it throughout. I can see how this would bother some people but it worked well for me. If they had tried to explain everything the story would’ve become way too bloated and there would’ve been a forced feeling to it all.

I have to get a few words in here for the script. The writing was almost perfect! You can tell the writers (Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou) are very talented at knowing what the effect their words will have on audiences, where to insert and how long to hold pauses to make things uncomfortably funny, and how to give each character a unique flavor. The script was not dynamic at all and this kind of writing and delivery on most other movies would result in a tough to watch film. Here the style works perfectly and while everyone talks in a disinterested and superficial way, it doesn’t compromise anything. In fact it added another layer to the movie for me because the story is all about relationships, either being forced to find one or forced to stay out of one. Underneath the very superficial and stilted dialogue you can feel the desperation in the character’s voices to find something more substantial. Lastly here, this is an example of how to properly use voice-over narration. One of the characters gives narration throughout most of the film but I always found myself looking forward to it and her delivery was a spectacle on its own, I can still hear the voice in my mind now.

filmthelobster_1280x720

The Not So Good: Regrettably the story and pacing also have their shortcomings and that’s the only thing that held this movie back from being closer to perfect. The first half of the movie is laid out extremely well with the perfect amount of jokes, plot progression, and pacing. Once we leave The Hotel, things slow down dramatically. Everything that goes on after that isn’t exactly bad or boring but it’s noticeable different from the stellar first half. The film didn’t feel too long yet I think it would’ve been an overall better movie if some of the second half were trimmed. If you watch the movie I’m sure you’ll notice the same as there are many more instances of lingering and silence in the latter half. Additionally, while I didn’t have a big issue with it, I know plenty of people won’t like the ending. I saw the movie with Liz and she also really enjoyed it but she wasn’t the biggest fan of the ending. Obviously I won’t spoil it for you but I feel comfortable saying it’s the type of ending that may feel like a cop out or unresolved. Personally I was very comfortable being left in the dark as to many of the deeper details of the film’s universe from the beginning so the ending wasn’t unsatisfactory. I won’t say that I loved the ending either but not every movie needs to have a mind-blowing ending to make it as a good movie.

the-lobster-00

The Verdict: 

Overall I enjoyed this movie greatly. Like I said earlier, I can’t comfortably say I recommend this movie to everyone. If you don’t mind unexplained trip movies, black comedies, and endless amount of deadpan humor then I think you’ll enjoy this one. If you like more traditional plot structures with clear motivations and circumstances and endings that are neatly wrapped up then stay far away.