To say that The Lobster sounded weird when I first read the synopsis (it has been out for 8 weeks now) doesn’t even begin to sum up how I felt about this movie. And it looked even stranger during the preview I caught, so I decided to steer clear. A chunky, unsexy, monotone, slow-moving Colin Farrell playing this dull-sounding man who will be turned into a lobster if he can’t find love? Wait! What???!!! So, as I said, I steered clear – until over the weekend I was looking through a blog where reactions to this odd film ranged from stating this was the worst movie ever made to throwing around the word “masterpiece.” The sentiments ranged from the film being a total failure to the best thing ever, so I had to see it and judge for myself.
To explain further, the last time I had seen such varying opinions and read the words “garbage” and “masterpiece” about the same movie was last year in reference to Mad Max: Fury Road, which I also avoided like the plague. It was nearly the last of the 2015 nominated movies that I watched before the Academy Awards aired, and I’ll be darned if it wasn’t a masterpiece and then some. To my delighted surprise, once I got past the initial dread of having to watch it and the movie started, I loved every single frame of it; despite the fact that post-apocalyptic sci‑fi may be one of my least favorite genres ever, and I figured, “How good could it be? I have seen a Mad Max movie before. What’s the big “whoop” about?”
Well, here’s the “big whoop,” if you have not seen it. Mad Max: Fury Road had such a rich plot – touching on sexism, politics, religion (including cultism and religious extremism), the 1% vs. the 99%, mob mentality, government control of resources, media and rules, independent thought, and abuse of power, to name a few points; it was an action-packed adrenaline rush; it was well acted; and flawlessly visually stunning – I wanted to watch it again immediately after it went off, feeling like I would catch things I had missed the first time; it was on my mind for days afterward; and I told nearly everyone I came in contact with for days to watch it because I wanted to know if they would see it as I did. When I say I loved it, I mean it. I thought there was no other movie nominated for 2015 that came anywhere close to the artistry of Mad Max: Fury Road. But alas, Max won six awards out of 10 nominations, but not best picture. Predictable Academy behavior.
But I digress… I say all this to say, that when I heard the word “masterpiece” again, it was like someone rang a bell, and I felt compelled to check out The Lobster immediately.
Similarly to Mad Max, The Lobster is sort of a mess of a movie at first look. It’s a tragic comedy, science fiction, anti-love story – which makes it a unique breath of fresh air. It is unlike any movie I have ever seen before – only a bonus when the movie is done right. And this movie is done right.
Co-written and directed by some guy named Yorgos Lanthimos, The Lobster is about people living in a society where they are punished for being single and a subculture of that society where they are punished for finding love – and how, no matter what, love is not a thing that can be forced or faked; and if it is genuine, it is not a thing that can be stopped – and despite its best efforts, society cannot dictate with whom or when love will happen. The characters try to fit into relationships they have no business in for all sorts of reasons (convenience, circumstances, fear, desperation, neediness, conformity – like people often do), and in the end that inauthenticity catches up with the characters every single time – with dire consequences.
During the first half of the movie David (played by Colin Farrell) attempts to fit in with the main stream. According to societal rules, single people simply cannot be tolerated. That’s the rule and everyone must follow it. David is sequestered in “The Hotel” for single citizens who are each tasked with finding a compatible mate and/or love within 45 days; or, upon the failure to do so, be turned into the animal of their choice.
David chooses to become a lobster for a number of compelling and well thought out reasons. This choice of animal shows that David is not a conformist deep down, as most people don’t give the question much thought. Most people usually go with what is familiar to them, something that does not offend the sensibilities (certainly not a bug), and something that keeps them closer to humans. Most choose to become a dog. But David is an independent thinker who doesn’t follow the herd. It is an old philosophical question that we’ve all heard before – If you could be any animal, what would you be? – Not pondered in some existential way, but in reality – because this is a thing that could possibly truly happen.
I know! It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?! Uuuuhhh, and it is. Kind of.
David tries to fit in and follow the status quo, but fails and winds up eventually escaping the hotel. He spends the second half of the film living in the forest among the subculture that punishes members for flirting, kissing, sex, love – each transgression punished more severely than the next. He moves from one society with unreasonable rules, to another where the rules and their consequences may be much worse.
Instead of failing to find love and becoming a lobster, he may find love and lose his life in another way because of it. Who hates love? David does. Love is his nemesis throughout this whole ordeal that is his life – whether society is forcing it on him when he doesn’t want it or can’t find it, or denying him from having it after he does. This movie is about all the ways we attempt to manufacture, contort and control love and just generally fuck it up, quite frankly; collectively as a society and individually.
Each character represents a different type of relationship. Some represent marriage, some true friendship, some artificial friendship, some romance, some acquaintance, some people we see and may know their names but do not care about or for, some people we just don’t like for seemingly no reason at all, some people we just do not “click” with, instant friends and acquaintances you have that we pretend to be friends with because we are in the same place at the same time, friends who we click with right away who stand up for us in times of need. And relationships are represented in all stages (initial meeting, acceptance or rejection, courtship, early marriage, comfortable stable marriage, declining marriage, etc.).
And all sorts of questions are presented about our relationships throughout this movie. Who are our friends and why? Are they friends because of circumstances, things we have in common, convenience? Who is your spouse? Do you really know them? What would they do to save you if they had to? What would they do to save themselves? Do they truly love you at all? What is true love? Would they sacrifice their well being for yours? The best answers to these questions are demonstrated in the actions of each and every character throughout the movie. This shit is deep, man. I mean, really, really deep.
Everything about this movie is so deliberate – sometimes painfully so, including the robotic, monotone speech pattern of the conforming, brainwashed, characters.
The Lobster attempts to explore all aspects of human “love” and questions why, how, when and who we love and why, how, when and who then. It produces questions and provides answers for so many questions about love and relationships – creating more questions to be asked based on those answers.
I wasn’t really sure what I had just seen when this movie ended. How can you tell someone about something or critique it if you didn’t even understand it? I had to let it marinate for a while before I could even begin to write anything. This movie is uniquely bazaar and confusing, but also meaningful, funny at times in a very dark way (which I like), and profound.
Although, I must say, everybody is not going to care for this movie. It’s super cerebral, action-packed in that it will keep you engaged (You become so involved in trying to figure out what you are watching, you will forget all about the movie theater you’re in. Or at least I did.), and the humor is dark, dry and at times, outlandishly hilarious. Giving credit where credit is due, I would have to say, “Yes.” The Lobster is an artistic “masterpiece.” I am giving The Lobster 10 straight up bloops. It is indeed a thoughtful, well executed, delightful, deliberate piece of work.
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1 = worst ever, avoid at all cost
2 = very bad, forget about it!
3 = poor movie, not recommended
4 = not good, even for free – NO!
5 = so-so, worth it if you don’t have to pay
6 = not bad, could have been better
7 = good movie, worth seeing
8 = great movie, don’t miss it!
9 = excellent movie, a must see!
10 = a masterpiece, go see it now!
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