Next time you want to lament the lack of new ideas in Hollywood, think about “The Lobster” because it only takes a few minutes to realize you’ve never seen a movie quite like this.
Now whether that’s a good thing or not will have to be up to you. Personally, I enjoyed it.
“The Lobster’s” strained protagonist is David (Colin Farrell), whom we see at the film’s outset in the midst of a breakup. That is, he’s getting dumped.
What we soon learn is that these characters live in a sort of dystopic world where single adults are herded into resort-like clubs where they have 45 days to find love and marriage, or they are turned into an animal.
Yes, you read that right. An animal — one of your choosing, and you live the rest of your days as that creature.
There are rules, though. Couples are strictly monitored to ensure they are compatible, which is to say that they have similar qualities, flaws, personalities or quirks. An example of a positive match might be that each character has a limp or a similar speech impediment. The people completely buy into this process without question and generally accept their fate if they are to become an animal. Some, however, choose to run, and are hunted down by the others, tranquilized and punished.
It’s not a spoiler to say that we’re never told whether this process is legitimate. We see one character be taken away, then return as a beast, but we don’t actually see the transformation. It begs the question of the authenticity of the process. We see the transformation room, but there is no discussion of the science.
So there David stays, keeping mostly to himself but plotting to score a bride. He watches and struggles to obey the rules. Self-pleasure is strictly forbidden (punishable by putting your hand in a toaster), and faking a love connection gets you automatically turned into an animal, but not your preferred beast.
Meanwhile, on the outside is a group of rebels who shun this lifestyle by choosing to be “free,” but who have strict rules of their own. Freedom, it seems, is really a series of choices of the limitations you find most comfortable.
David finds himself stuck in limbo as his deadline approaches. Potential mates soon pair off, or even reject him in favor of the transformation.
It might be giving away too much to say what comes next, but I will say the movie shifts gears rather radically, and David finds himself mixed up with another group of people, including a woman he finds he has a lot in common with (Rachel Weisz): their eyesight. That they call themselves “short sighted” might reveal more about their characters than they mean to.
Sound wacky enough for you? Director/co-writer Yorgos Lanthimos offers a bone-dry sense of humor with overly earnest characters feeling like perfectly reasonable people trapped in the bodies in a nightmarishly dull, humorless alternate universe. They are perpetually perplexed, but it never really occurs to them that what they are doing is the least bit strange.
But you’ll find yourself immersed in this oddball world, wanting to know and see more about it. If you are, you’ll embrace the head-scratching frustration that comes along with “The Lobster,” a movie you should see while enjoying cocktails with a friend and can fully explore the quirks, politics, and beauty of afterward.
“The Lobster,” like a lot of those movies that fall into the category of “original Hollywood material,” won’t be for everyone, but for those willing to take an open-minded journey into the sublime, it’s a lot of fun.