In a dystopian near future, according to the laws of The City, single people are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into beasts and sent off into The Woods.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
To begin at the end, or ending ... the ending of Lobster is reminiscent of how John Sayles irritated Cannes festival (and later general) audiences back in 1999 with the ending of his festival entry, Limbo, by denying us an answer to what became the focal question at the end, Yorgos Lanthimos shuts off the film in the same fashion.
In the case of Limbo, Sayles explained it by referring to nature being non judgmental and devoid of feelings. It has no intent. That explanation doesn't apply to Lobster. Here the reduction of the film's themes to the single question of the ending robs the film of what's left of its coherence and ambition.
Now to the beginning ... The sly exposition reveals the film's audacity gradually, a combination of whimsy, surrealism and black farce. So far so good, with much business to keep our attention and interest. This is the part that I enjoyed most, out there and bizarre but as entertaining and curious as a Salvador Dali painting or sculpture: you can see what it is, but it doesn't look like what it is.
Colin Farrell delivers a nicely moulded and muted performance quite different to what we may expect, as David, one of the 'guests' at the grand hotel-like institution where - for unclear reasons - some citizens are gathered and ordered to find partners, shoot 'loners' with tranquilisers and perform other odd duties. Failure to find a partner in 45 days results in being 'transformed' into the animal of your choice. His is a lobster.
There is a deranged atmosphere that is seemingly a metaphor for the strict but unwritten rules that govern human relationships within the clans we call communities. We all live in a madhouse, constrained by expectations and unbreakable social rules. Although it doesn't make sense, the interior world has an ever amusing side and the tone of the first two thirds of the film is oddball and off beat, which gradually gives way to an ugly tone and a confusion that leaves us less intrigued and more aggrieved.
The screenplay hovers between meaningful metaphor and meaningless mayhem, always teasing with inventive possibilities, not always delivered.
Rachel Weiss and LŽa Seydoux carve terrific characters out of their roles, complex and dangerous, while John C Reilly turns in another one of his great performances as a lisping inmate/guest, as does Ben Whishaw.
The workings of this world provide partial interest but its the characters that make it so memorably unique, notably the ones mentioned as well as Olivia Colman as the manageress and Garry Mountaine as her partner.
The sheer verve of the filmmakers earned them the Jury Prize at Cannes, where unique and risky filmmaking is rewarded ahead of commercially satisfying fare.
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LOBSTER, THE (MA15+)
CAST: LŽa Seydoux, Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Ben Wishaw, John C. Reilly, Jessica Barden, Olivia Colman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed
PRODUCER: Ceci Dempsey, ERd Guiney, Konstantakapoulos Yorgos Lanthimos, Lee Magiday
DIRECTOR: Yorgos Lanthimos
SCRIPT: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Thimios Bakatakis
EDITOR: Yorgos Mavropsaridis
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Jacqueline Abrahams
RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Sony
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 22, 2015