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‘The Lobster’ Does More Than Just Pinch Your Dark Comedy Nerve (Movie Review)

the lobster thumbWhen you learn of a film with a premise as bizarre as The Lobster, there has to be hope it can really work. Oscar-nominee Yorgos Lanthimos has taken the offbeat sensibilities that helped his film Dogtooth catch on and applied it to his first English-language feature, which involves people either finding love or being turned into animals. The results are wickedly entertaining, as The Lobster manages to push forward a satirical look at a society forced into a ridiculous existential nightmare.

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As alluded to, the story surrounds a slightly futuristic society where single people are now taken to a hotel and given 45 days to find a partner. Those who fail are turned into an animal of their choice and released into the wild. Colin Farrell stars as David, the man we follow through this extraordinary ordeal, as he is forced to contend with the very strict rules of the hotel and do his best to find a partner.

This film’s concept is insane, but Lanthimos does good by his story due to world building. It would be one thing to announce such a wild premise, but this film manages to deliver on making it believable within the frameworks of what we are seeing. The Lobster is not Logan’s Run, as far as high concept sci-fi goes, as we are not dealing with elaborate special effects and elaborate evil schemes. There is no real explanation for how the animal processing works. Instead, we have a film that is rather quaint in its visual setup, but made all the more effective thanks to the performances and Lanthimos’ sharp eye when it comes to delivering a mix of humor and tension.

The very premise is certainly intriguing and it really is a good thing we are seeing it through a humorous lens, albeit a very dark sense of humor. Rather than making a series of goofy setups featuring the punchline of us seeing an animal, there is a very smart and weirdly moving story here (which also allows for animals to pop up here and there). It is based around the idea of people needing to couple together, but The Lobster is very clever in how it takes a deadpan approach to the woes of dating and expectations built around relationship units. Luckily, the film also realizes how the surreal nature of the film lends itself to stepping outside the boundaries of the hotel.

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Without going too far into detail concerning the turns The Lobster makes, we do meet a number of other characters that fill out this world. John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw are terrific as fellow hotel guests forced to try and find a partner. Olivia Colman has a dry intensity as the hotel manager, which plays well into the film’s sense of humor. Rachel Weisz and Lea Seydoux exist outside the hotel and the film is all the more interesting for how they come into play and what it means for Farrell.

Speaking to Farrell’s work, he is great here. Going all out for the part by putting on weight and adopting a very specific presence, there is a choice he constantly makes to undersell key moments in this film that perfectly match his character’s persona. I generally like Farrell, but am aware of his penchant for playing roles big. Here he has settled down and it makes for a character with plenty of nuance, which effectively builds up the level of emotion we’re supposed to have in a film that tries to present a world neutered of empathy.

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The Lobster is also really funny. It is certainly an acquired taste as far as what constitutes the comedy seen, but there is plenty of levity in a film that has a really twisted way of explaining itself. The nature of the hotel is enough lunacy in itself, but seeing the lengths Whishaw’s character goes to, for example, means watching a man cause physical harm to himself, in order to stay human. The pain feels real, as The Lobster, for all its other-worldliness, is incredibly grounded, but we still get a strange kick out of seeing what takes place and the lengths people will go.

Never letting up, The Lobster does not betrays itself by the time it ends. Lanthimos’ unusual sensibilities keep the film from running out of steam or tying things up with a bow. The film, for all its weirdness, has plenty of heart, but there is still enough to take away from the dark events that occur and go along with the humor present. While The Lobster may come off in a sort of minimal sense, compared to the outlandish premise, it does plenty to work as an effective dystopian science fiction film. It also gives you plenty of time to think about what animal you would want to be.

the lobster poster

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Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Video Game Player, Comic Book Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

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