Thursday, December 1, 2016
The Lobster is one of the oddest movies I think I've ever seen. It's the first movie I've seen from Oscar nominated Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos, his first in English, and I've actually seen it described as his most conventional and easy to get into movie. I thought the trailers looked weird, but hilarious, and I was excited to see it. After getting a great critical reception (90% approval on RottenTomatoes) I got even more intrigued. I knew from reading about Lanthimos's previous films that it would be bizarre, but I also knew it had Colin Farrell, who is a fascinating actor when he's not doing big budget Hollywood stuff. And it also boasted other terrific actors like Ben Whishaw, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, and John C. Reilly. So I took the dive and it was a much stranger journey than I would've expected, and I kind of liked it.
The movie is set in a world where people are not allowed to be alone, romantically. When David (Farrell) is told by his wife that she's leaving him, he gets sent to a hotel where he'll have 45 days to find another suitable mate, or else be turned into an animal. David chooses a lobster as his potential animal. He arrives at the hotel with his dog, who used to be his brother Bob. During his stay at the hotel, David meets some fellow singles (Reilly and Whishaw) and they talk, commiserate, and scheme to get mates. Something that also happens is that every day the hotel guests are driven in a bus out into the forest surrounding the hotel, given tranquilizer guns, and they hunt loners, people who've escaped the hotel or the city and live out in the woods. For every loner they bring back, another day is added to their stay at the hotel. We hear much of these happenings narrated by an unnamed woman (Rachel Weisz), who we eventually realize is reading from a diary.
All of this is told in an strangely stilted manner, from everyone and everything involved. The actors performances aren't what we're used to seeing. They're not unrecognizable, but they're just....odd. The production design is wonderful, the cinematography and framing of shots is fascinating and beautiful, but there's something off. It's almost like watching a bizarro world version of a Wes Anderson movie. Gorgeously made, lots of terrific actors, but not resembling reality in the slightest. Everything from the look, to the dialog (and the speech cadences as well) is completely it's own thing. Seemingly not informed by other movie or real life.
The first half of the movie is the much more interesting, as we explore this strange world. The second half, while still good, is the lesser even as it is the more conventional piece, as Farrell and Weisz develop their sweet love story. But while I laughed a lot at the trailers, the movie itself is so unusual that I often found myself feeling at too far a distance to be able to laugh at anything but the absurdity of the movie. Farrell and Weisz are able to add the only real bits of emotion found in the film, and their story is involving up to a point. But while outlandish and eccentric, the movie kinda dragged for me as it went along. This crazy new world we're introduced to and explore in the first half isn't really developed or expanded as well when we start to focus on the romance.
Overall, I liked it and would definitely recommend it as something to check out if a person was even remotely interested. It's stranger, and delightfully also more interesting, than the trailers made it out to be. More people need to see more odd things too, I think. We need more new things like this in the world. We may not always love the new things, but this is one I liked, am very glad exists, and happy that I saw it.