The Lobster

I tend to avoid blockbuster-franchise-superhero-sequel movies for the same reason I avoid chain stores — they have enough money, what’s my $20 to them? I’d rather support a mom-and-pop establishment. Of course, there are a couple exceptions to my rule — the Christopher Nolan Batman movies, Chipotle before the germs — but for the most part, I hashtag-shop-small.

Oh, also, you don’t need a shit-ton of money to make a great movie. Case in point: Batman vs. Superman was a $250 million punchline, whereas The Lobster was a $4.5 million work of art.

If you liked 1984, and/or the concept of a dystopian future, you’ll like this movie. I’m certain it’s a direct correlation. In The Lobster, there are a certain, very specific set of rules that people follow, and they’re incredibly fucked up, but those rules actually break your (the viewer’s) thinking habits. It’s a fun paradox and a mind-bending couple of hours.

The Lobster is a lush movie about an empty world. The purpose of life is to find a partner, full stop. Single people are given 45 days to do so in a sterile, hotel-like environment; if they don’t, they’re surgically turned into the animal of their choice. Singles tend to pair up on the basis of shared superficial traits, like speech impediments, since they have no time to form meaningful connections. Singles can also extend their stays in the hotel by venturing out and killing escapees, who live on the lam and extoll the virtues of loner-dom.

The story revolves around bespectacled David (Colin Farrell, who continues to surprise me with his versatility), whose animal of choice — the lobster — contrasts starkly with the mammals that most people select. He seems to have a higher intelligence and tolerance for stupidity than everyone else, making his existence a pretty pathetic one. His friends (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw, both heartbreaking), however, are worse off because they’re so submerged in their fates that they can’t see life any other way. His love interests (Angeliki Papoulia, Rachel Weisz) are arguably more evolved than he is, and they inspire him to see more than what’s there.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll say that the ending makes you consider a really difficult question (Consider the Lobster, if you will): Is it better to live life alone, or with a partner? Maybe the answer is obvious in those terms, but considering how partners are chosen, you might surprise yourself with your revised answer. Would you want to be with someone forever who has the same physical weakness or psychological tendency as you do? What kind of life could you build together? Would either of you actually change or grow? By posing these questions in the surreal world, the writers (Yorgos Lanthimos, who also directed, and Efthymis Filippou) make the real one seem … pleasant. Almost.

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One comment

  1. pseudonymous · December 11

    I had a couple big problems with The Lobster. First and foremost, the central metaphor is overextended and twisted–yes, the parallels to modern romance and sexuality are obvious, but they end up coming across as confused and contradictory. For instance, In the early parts of the movie, when the rules of the hotel are being laid out, we discover the hotel staff forcibly stimulate male guests sexually (but never to release,) and the immediate association (unless you want to go literal, which we’ll tackle later) is to the unsatisfying nature of our ‘searching process,’ i.e. casual sex with people we don’t really know. This seems like a straightforward connection, but begs the question ‘then how does masturbation fit into all this?’ In keeping with the metaphor, you assume that the writer is trying to highlight that some part of ‘the search,’ specifically our sexual behavior during it, is giving us some itch we can’t scratch–so you think the writer will have some equally abstract metaphorical connection to masturbation. But then we see John C. Reilly’s character getting his hands put in a toaster as punishment for the ‘crime.’ Of course, figuratively this makes no sense–there is no external punishment for this ‘itch,’ only what we inflict on ourselves. So we’re now back to thinking of the metaphor more literally; but there aren’t real-world moratoriums against, or even personal downsides to masturbation, so where could the director/writer have possibly been going with it? Choosing to go abstract and metaphorical with the set-up, then following that up with something literal totally ruins both angles. The movie is filled with instances like these: clever-looking metaphors that don’t hold up under closer inspection, ~but that doesn’t matter~ because the movie has already moved on by the time you’ve started to question it. And the example I just gave falls apart *even more* when you put it in the context of the single people’s world outside.

    Second, this movie is so abstract it makes discussion difficult. The problem is, nobody I’ve seen has been able to construct a consistent, functional application of this movie’s metaphor–and I feel like that actually says a lot about quality of the writing. Of course, nobody wants to feel stupid, so nobody dares call the movie out on this; but again, at such a crazy level of abstraction, this movie could mean anything to anyone–and as a result, it means nothing to everyone. When I talk to people about it, they’re always quick to ask what I thought it meant, while avoiding saying what *they* thought–and I think that’s because people think this is an ‘artsy smart people movie’ and don’t want to look dumb by offering an interpretation that could be wrong; and of course that’s going to happen because any interpretation of this movie is going to be seriously flawed due to the inconsistency in its metaphors.

    in short, i think it’s a movie that succeeded at looking like an ‘artsy smart people movie.’

    “bravo, filippou.”

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