The Lobster Review

(3.5 STARS)

The Lobster is an utterly transfixing and bewildering high-concept comedy about what the world would look like if everything we knew and liked about love was gone. In Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ English-language debut, coupling off is an obligation; We never find out why, but those without a partner are forced to attend The Hotel, and if you’re still single after 45 days there, you’re turned into the animal of your choice.

As such, everyone we meet — single men, women, and couples alike — are consumed with fear. This clearly stunts their emotional development in ways I still haven’t fully comprehended, but the superficially simple characterizations are in fact extremely deep, and the film’s complexity is unparalleled among 2016’s other offerings. I haven’t seen much this year, but The Lobster is easily at the top of its class, and it’s not particularly close.

Colin Farrell plays our primary protagonist, David. His wife has left him for another, so alongside his dog/brother (seriously), he checks in to The Hotel. There, he meets John (Ben Whishaw), the man with the lisp (John C. Reilly), the woman who likes biscuits (Ashley Jensen), the woman whose nose bleeds frequently (Jessica Barden), her best friend (Emma O’Shea), and the woman with no feelings whatsoever (Angeliki Papoulia), among others. With his days winding down and his ability to hunt for fugitive singles in the woods limited, David attempts to game the system, His plan goes bloody horribly, but the improvisation that follows might be the key to finding his soulmate.

The film’s first half is flawless. Lanthimos introduces us to this world and its characters without regard for his audience, but it’s delightful (and fairly easy) to keep up with his breakneck pace. Meeting the various men and women of The Hotel, including its severe manager (a delightfully dark Olivia Colman), and seeing its perverse rules carried out is the film’s highlight. In that sense, one could imagine The Lobster as a television series that lets us spend time with a host of rotating characters, learning more and more by the episode about how and why the world became the way it is.

Alas, as a movie, it goes in a different direction. It’s a step down from what precedes it, but it’s worthy in its own right and leads to a handful of the funniest movie moments I think we’ll see all year. Without saying too much, I’ll simply note that The Hotel isn’t the only twisted place in this particular world. Going down that road brings up more questions than Lanthimos seems concerned to answer — something he reinforces with the film’s brilliant ending.

Colin Farrell put on a couple lbs to play David. He’s easy to recognize still, but the physical transformation goes a long way to establishing his character as a well-meaning schlub. He’s matched in every frame by the actors listed above, as well as Lea Seydoux and Rachel Weisz, who also provides the film’s unique narration. The latter is especially intriguing. Anxiety pervades the picture, and every character is quite clearly full of it, but Weisz’s is the only one who wears it on her sleeve. Her energy is extremely important to the way The Lobster plays out.

Because The Lobster is a film best discovered for yourself — as opposed to reading all about it before you dive in — I won’t say anymore. But it is a film that lingers and one I’m quite certain I’ll revisit time and time again in the future. For now, it’ll have to be content as the best film of 2016’s first half.

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