Tuesday, June 07, 2016

The Lobster

I was about midway through this review and curious about where I'd seen some actress or other, and (perhaps unsurprisingly) it was in director Yorgos Lanthimos's last film, Alps. Following that link led me to my review of it, as I had forgotten completely that I had seen any of his films before, and, man, I hated it. The way I hated it was telling, though; I thought it was too fond of its peculiar conceit that, given the choice between showing it and having the characters do something believable, even considering the situation, Lanthimos would always do the former.

It wasn't really my biggest concern as I started writing - indeed, I initially intended to write a more positive review - but once that was in my head, it sort of wouldn't let go, and became the focus. What was good overcame Lanthimos's weaknesses rather than there just being bad bits in a mostly-satisfying film. I'm kind of torn on this, actually, because it's not really part of my reaction coming out of the film, and while it can be useful to put a film into the context of someone's career, is that really useful for someone trying to decide whether or not to see a movie.

Ah, well. I like this one, and while there are elements I like less the more I think about it, those weaknesses actually make the parts I do like seem even better. Doesn't always work that way, but it does here.

The Lobster

* * * (out of four)
Seen 6 June 2016 in Somerville Theatre #5 (first-run, DCP)

Early on in The Lobster, it looks like filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is going to present a fairly unconventional message, that despite it seeming like the moral of nearly every story, maybe love is not the only way to feel truly fulfilled. It's a subversive-enough idea for a movie that it's perhaps the slightest bit disappointing when Lanthimos has a more conventional worldview, despite his intriguingly eccentric approach to the subject.

In his film, David (Colin Farrell) was just left by his wife after eleven years, and as is the case when that happens, he is given forty-five days to get back into a relationship or else be turned into an animal. So he goes to The Hotel, as one does. He befriends two other new arrivals, one with a lisp (John C. Reilly) and one with a limp (Ben Whishaw); they meet a number of women - one chatty and fond of butter biscuits (Ashley Jensen), one seemingly heartless (Angeliki Papoulia), one prone to nosebleeds (Jessica Barden), and another her best friend (Emma O'Shea). They can extend their time a bit by catching and tranquilizing the Loners in the woods, who may have a fearsome leader (Léa Seydoux) but also count among their number a woman (Rachel Weisz) who may be a fine match for David even beyond their shared nearsightedness.

Lanthimos and regular co-writer Efthymis Filippou are often fairly obvious in their satire, but that's not a mark against it. There are a couple of bits toward the start where the hotel staff do skits meant to convince their guests that being in a relationship is all that stands between a person and certain death, and that being alone is equivalent to trying to go through life with one hand tied behind one's back. It's a deadpan look at how society tells people that they may as well not be human if they're not in a very specifically defined sort of relationship achieved a certain way, and how the spontaneity has been pulled out of it. It's pointedly absurd but has some fantastic small moments.

Full review on EFC.

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