There are a great many words one can use to describe The Lobster. Bizarre, absolutely bizarre, is probably the best one. I am not exactly sure what to think of this film, and it could either be pretentious nonsense, or it could be a work of absolute art. I am leaning towards the latter, mostly because something this original cannot possibly be trash, or maybe it can. Otherwise, The Lobster was a fascinating and very original film.
Each year, there seems to be a film or two that is entirely original, and unlike anything done before. The story is unique, and the plot is told in a very non-conventional way. For those of you who are not wondering why a film has such a bizarre title, allow me to explain the plot. The Lobster is set in a near future society, where being in a relationship is a mandatory part of the legal system. Those that are single are forced to reside in a strange hotel, where they have 45 days to find a suitable partner. If they are unable to do so, they are turned into an animal of their choice. This is the plot, and I am not making this up. There is an actual art film about a man who wants to be turned into a lobster. Also, it is not really a comedy either. It is a bizarre piece of European art cinema that will probably entice many people, and really confuse others. A divisive film is always a great film, nonetheless.
The Lobster is not only an original story, but it boasts a fantastic cast. Colin Farrell plays David, a middle-aged, overweight, incredibly shy divorcee that is sent to the hotel, and we see this bizarre story through his eyes. I have to be honest – I never really liked Colin Farrell. I always saw him as a bit of a loose-cannon of an actor, who had a scandalous personal life, but was never able to give compelling performances, and spent his early career doing trashy action films and mediocre period epics, which seemed to be his defining path for his career, and no one really thought much about him. It is clear that he thought the same, because it wasn’t long before he seemed to clean up and attempt some more prestigious work. I first took notice of him in the fantastic In Bruges, where he was absolutely delightful. Great work in Saving Mr. Banks and Fright Night convinced me that he was a very good actor, capable of some great performances. In The Lobster, I wouldn’t say he gives his best performance (that will always be the honour bestowed upon his performance in In Bruges, which was an absolute riot), but perhaps his most interesting. Gaining weight and ensuring that he appeared to be a depressed, lonely middle-aged man incapable of finding a partner. It is a far cry from the lothario he has played – both in films and in his public persona – and proves to be a somewhat transformative role. His performance as David is complex, strange and alluring in its simplicity. He certainly has proven his talents in previous films, so his wooden delivery was perhaps intentional, to make the character as bland and forgettable as possible, in a good way. It is an everyman character, and with a complete absence of any charm or redeeming factors, the character of David is truly a very accurate representation of the human condition.
Rachel Weisz is a charming actress in general, but I was not really sure what to make of her here. She is very effective in her narration, telling this story in a very offbeat and quirky manner, and her seriousness, added with her soothing nature of performance, makes her narration performance pretty great. However, her actual performance is very odd. Much like Farrell’s character, Weisz’s unnamed character is completely void of any redeeming qualities, and much like David, she is cold, uncharismatic and sometimes even…boring. The two of the actors have fantastic chemistry, and perhaps the decision to have them both play very average characters with very little interesting aspects was a conscious choice, to improve the chemistry and prove the mantra of the film – choose a partner who is the same as you, both through interests and flaws. One can say a vast amount about how boring their characters are, they are truly very effective.
The rest of the cast is great, if not underused. Olivia Colman is wonderfully funny as the sardonic hotel manager who runs the resort with an iron fist and makes sure that guests are made to feel as unwelcome as possible, but through their own self-denial, not through her condescending micro-management. Lea Seydoux is also brilliantly evil as the leader of the resistance of people that escape the hotel. Smaller performances from John C. Reilly (who sports an unnecessarily elaborate lisp) and Ben Whishaw as David’s friends and later rivals, are also wonderful. The cast might not be used to their best capacity, but they are certainly used well within the context of this film, and luckily for them, their presence in this film is a great addition to their filmographies, because love it or hate it, The Lobster is a very notable film. I do think if this film followed any of the characters, it would’ve been equally as original and brilliant, and perhaps this film would’ve worked better in a miniseries format, where each of the major characters is explored, because while I thought David’s story was great, I also really wanted to see the experiences of the other characters as well. I won’t say that the cast is wasted, but rather I wish the focus wasn’t exclusively on David, but some of the other characters in the hotel as well.
If there is one aspect of this film that I wish had gone a different direction, it is the fact that this film loses focus halfway through, and Lanthimos seems desperate to move the action to a new locale, and by doing this, he adds a surprisingly shocking amount of confusion to the story, and a more smooth, less complex transition would have made The Lobster far more entertaining than it actually was, because while a film that makes you think is never really a bad film, a film as strange as The Lobster sometimes requires a small amount of space to allow the audience to come to terms with the story and to understand the way forward.
The Lobster is actually a really brilliant film. It is one of the most original I’ve seen in a while, and it is a very compelling dark comedy. It is perhaps slightly obtuse in its efforts to be original, but if anyone has seen Dogtooth, it is obvious that Yorgos Lanthimos is a filmmaker with a flair for the disturbingly nihilistic, which is a trait not seen in many films today. The Lobster is probably one of the best films of the year, just not too many people realize that. The first act is fantastic, the second act messy and the third act confusing, but as a whole it is a unique and wonderful film, and one that I think requires multiple viewings to fully grasp the nature of its brilliance.