Thursday, February 23, 2017

OVP: The Lobster (2016)

Film: The Lobster (2016)
Stars: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, Jessica Barden
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Oscar History: 1 nomination (Best Original Screenplay)
Snap Judgment Ranking: 4/5 stars

I am single.  Very, very single.  Chronically single.  Unhappily single.  Continually single.  I needed to get that out in the open before I start to dissect (ooh, what a choice of words) the latest film from Yorgos Lanthimos, which is in the hunt for an Original Screenplay award this Sunday at the Oscars.  I have seen one other of Lanthimos' films (the controversial Dogtooth) so I knew I was in for something bizarre and occasionally ridiculous, and compared to Dogtooth, The Lobster actually stayed a bit more in the lines.  Still, though, as a single person I felt a bit more of this screenplay and these jokes than I would have had I been partnered my whole life, and actually liked The Lobster much more than my first round with Lanthimos.

(Spoilers Ahead) The film centers around David (Farrell), a man who has been sent to a retreat where he must find love or be turned into the animal of his choice (in this case, the titular lobster).  The place is run like a combination of a boarding house and the world's worst singles cruise, with forced fraternization, but with a twist.  All of the people are forced to partner with someone only when they share a seemingly superficial trait.  We meet several of David's friends, including Robert (Reilly) and John (Whishaw), the latter of which is determined to make a match with a woman even though he doesn't have any physical issues in common with her.  David eventually runs away from the hotel, joining a band of rebels including a Lonely Leader (Seydoux) and a beautiful woman (Weisz) who is nearsighted, like David.  They form a romantic relationship, which with the rebels is forbidden, and eventually come together, but at a terrible price (David likely blinding himself just as the film ends).

The movie is predicated on an absurd world, but it has enough truth to the screenplay to make you chuckle nervously rather than just chuckle.  The film's over-emphasis on dating culture being based on commonalities, rather than admiration or love or respect, is a direct connection to a web-based dating system where compatibility scores and surface-level attraction are far more important than something substantive.  The movie also shows how little value the world places on single people, especially as they age, showing, for example, the hotel manager (Colman), a cold woman with little to lend to her outward persona other than a wedding ring, being valued much higher than those more nuanced people that are in her care.  The film is not at-first a clear slap at modern culture, and the castes we place people in based on their romantic statuses, but it sure turns that way as it continues and we see rejection from both sides of people's decision (you really can't win in this world).

The acting in the film is roundly good, with Farrell, Colman, and Whishaw being the stand-outs for me.  I loved the desperation that Whishaw has to be normal, particularly when surrounded with men who clearly aren't (including himself) and Colman is almost unrecognizable as the hotel manager.  I wasn't wild about the lack of resolutions in some areas, but that might have been because I wanted to see more of this world and the ramifications of some of the actions (particularly what was the animal "that everyone hated?").  Overall, though, this is a much more coherent and succinct vision of a world we live in (even if it of course isn't) than Dogtooth was, and Lanthimos himself stays on my list of directors to follow more closely.

Those are my thoughts on The Lobster.  Considering it's been out for months I'm sure most of you have already seen it, so share below-who was your favorite character?  Who would you hope showed up to the hotel for you?  And how do you think films like this manage original screenplay nominations, but never any higher?

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