Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos made a name for himself with the quirky, twisted alternate world of “Dogtooth,” but his latest vision of an alternate world, “The Lobster,” simply drowns in its conceit.
Here’s the setup: There’s the City without a name, and in it, if you are single, you are considered a pariah. So when David (Colin Farrell) becomes single through events not clearly explained, he is sent to the Hotel, where unmarried folks are given 45 days to find a mate. If they don’t, then they’ll be transformed into an animal of their choosing and then be released into the woods where they’ll do society no harm. (David says he’s like to be a lobster, because they often live for 100 years if they’re not caught, cooked and eaten.)
One suspects that this “transference” into an animal is actually murder, but the details are murky. At any rate, the City believes that your mate should be just like you. So the desperate people in the Hotel seek out someone who mirrors them. If you’re near-sighted, then your mate should be near-sighted. If you get nosebleeds, then you need to find someone who gets nosebleeds.
It’s obviously a satire on society’s need for conformity. And it starts out as promising. The proprietors of the Hotel tell folks that if their mate doesn’t work out during a trial period, then society will try to help by giving them a child, since that usually helps a marriage. Insert guffaw here.
Poor David finally finds a mate, but he doesn’t like her, and she doesn’t like him. He has to kill his dog to show his love for her. He does. And that’s the first sign that this movie is going to really stink.
After a fight with his mate, David flees to the Woods, where another society has sprung up of single people, the Solitaires. And in this society, no one can establish a romantic relationship with anyone. It’s forever single. No love. Always separation. If you break the rules, you’ll be mutilated, blinded, whatever, as punishment.
It’s an interesting concept. but the movie drags on and on, and eventually seems to be treading the same ground over and over again.
Farrell’s David speaks in monotones, and there aren’t any real feelings in the Hotel, the City or the Woods.
But then David meets the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) and they seem to click, or at least have some kind of connection. But since they’re in the Woods, they must remain single. Predictably, they break the rules and face punishment.
Other characters include John C. Reilly as the Lisping Man and Lea Seydoux as the leader of the Solitaires. But all of these “types” get very old, very quickly. And Lanthimos, who showed such promise with “Dogtooth,” has really hit a creative wall. It’s a shame. But the movie’s flaws are all the more evident since its screening followed the highly inventive and emotionally involving “Son of Saul.”