Review: The Lobster (Sundance)
PLOT: In a society where having a mate is mandatory, a newly single man (Colin Farrell) is taken to a resort where he's given forty-five days to find a mate or be turned into the animal of his choosing.
REVIEW: THE LOBSTER is a confounding, strange film in the same way something like John Boorman's ZARDOZ is. While this doesn't feature Sean Connery running around in a red jock-strap killing people, there's imagery in Yorgo Lanthimos' film that's just as bizarre. Not having seen his prior film, DOGTOOTH, I didn't quite know what to expect with this and while it's too weird to ever please a mainstream audience, it's often a brilliantly enigmatic work, and a must-see for connoisseurs of weird cinema.
In a way, you could say THE LOBSTER is like a Woody Allen film if Woody did huge amounts of hallucinogenic drugs all through the scripting phase and principal photography. Colin Farrell is the sad-sack hero, a man who know his chances at finding any kind of match are pretty low, as one of the weird rules governing romance is that the two mates share some kind of common ground, be it a talent, physical handicap or other.
Presented as a totally unexceptional person, Farrell's character thinks he's so difficult to match up that he's not above pretending to be a sociopath if it'll bring him closer to the hotel's resident psycho, a woman (played by DOGTOOTH's Aggeliki Papoulia) who's won extra days at the hotel by hunting down “loners” - a rogue group defined by the fact that they neither want a mate nor want to be turned into animals.
Farrell's often hilarious in an understated way, whether he's pretending to be heartless by making fun of a guest (Ben Whishaw) with a prominent limp, or to find common ground with people he has nothing in common with. The tone is satirical, with a hint of a dystopian vibe mixed-in, even if the world seems contemporary. The vibe Lanthimos achieves is absolutely unique, and THE LOBSTER is certainly nothing even its detractors (of which I'm sure there will be plenty) could write-off. It's worth nothing at the packed Sundance screening there were no walk-outs, something very unique for such a frenzied festival.
Other than Farrell, the mostly European cast is great, with Rachel Weisz very likable as Farrell's eventual love interest, a factor that becomes more complicated than you'd think due to some unpredictable plot twists. SPECTRE heroine Lea Seydoux is very memorable as the “Loner” leader, who hides a certain degree of sadism behind her iconoclastic posing. Ben Wheatley favorite Michael Smiley, Olivia Colman, Ariane Labed, and Extras's Ashley Jensen also put in memorable turns, making this one of the best cast films I've seen in ages. John C. Reilly also has a little gem of a part as a lisping hotel guest trying to find a mate but having a hard time sticking to the “no masturbation rule” which leads to a memorable rendezvous with a toaster.
Fitting for a prestigious Euro art-house film with what I assume is a healthy budget, THE LOBSTER is gorgeous to look at, with striking lensing by Thimos Bakatakis and a classically sourced-score that gives this a kind of Kubrikian vibe.
While THE LOBSTER will likely only get a small release from distributor Alchemy, it should do really well in art-houses nationwide (it's already a European success) and is well-worth seeing on the big screen. While it's weird it's also very cinematic, something that can't be said about many of the small-scale films that play a fest like Sundance. This is certainly one to seek out.
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