Somewhere between the plots of 27 Dresses and The Handmaid’s Tale, The Lobster came into being. For a comedy it’s a little dark, but for a drama it’s awkwardly funny. Sort of like those downhill swimsuit and ski events. What happened to the future the Jetsons promised us? When did it turn away from hover cars and gravity on demand to government-sanctioned mating where couples are praised and loners are shot? A single, heterosexual man has a narrow window of opportunity to pick either the girl with the nosebleeds or the psychopath. If he has nothing in common with either of them he is skinned, disemboweled, and set loose in the forest as the animal of his choosing. If you’re thinking, “What the hell?” I’m right there with you. I would like to thank Children of Men for introducing the almost too real what-if scenario of global infertility and military check points that every director since 2012 has taken as a template.
There comes a time in everyone’s life when they’re tired of being alone. In The Lobster’s case, you’re either in a relationship or the government sends you to a special hotel to get hitched or get out. David (Colin Farrell), a middle-aged man with few shining qualities, checks into the hotel with his brother, a well-mannered dog. He has 44 days to find a mate or, like his brother before him, David will turn into the animal of his choosing; in this case, a lobster. The hotel encourages each guest to find a mate who shares their defining characteristic in order to be labelled “well-matched.” For David, a man with many feelings but no emotions, opening up is tough. With each guest clinging desperately to their single defining characteristic, it’s hard for individuals to branch out and discover a deeper connection. In addition to the dances and the dinners, the hotel puts its guests side-by-side on nightly bus outings into the woods where they are asked to hunt down “loners” and drag them back in exchange for extra days as a desperate human.
David has just over a month to find his match among the hotel’s selection. It’s a tough choice between the woman with the butter biscuits and the heartless harpy. Like the biscuits, the selection may be thin, but David reminds himself that he’s there to find a match, not the love of his life. In The Lobster’s world, a single similarity is enough to secure life-long companionship. If any problems emerge between the new couple, the hotel presents them with a child who will undoubtedly distract from the squabbling. This is how The Lobster gets its funny. You can tell a couple is having issues if they’re walking around with a kid in tow.
Colin Farrell takes the acting out of the actor on this one. But then again, so does everyone else. Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and all the rest play their parts like trees in a school play doing a first read-through on Monday morning. There are no suave moves, flirtatious smiles, or lustful glances – just a simple hello and a basic few questions to find out if this person shares a commonality. No? Okay. Bye.
The stone-cold blankness mixed with the chaos of the setting make The Lobster a weird mashup. I can only describe it as The Shining: More People, More Laughs. Lonely middle-aged men and women spend endless days at a hotel where the maid performs daily arousal exercises before sending guests off to lunch at single tables which moderately inhibit their ability to discuss the evening’s loner hunt in the woods. The Lobster is one failed suicide attempt away from losing its official comedy classification.
There are tender moments in the forest spliced with agonizingly prolonged deaths. It’s not suspense; it’s “dark humour.” Fact: I don’t think I got The Lobster. I got the message, but didn’t quite catch the real substantial art behind it all. There’s something deeper here, but the deranged couple shrugging off murder for the purpose of calling each other’s bluff took things too far. The Lobster is undeniably weird and certainly the blackest of comedies that, in many places, went right over my head. It’s a forced performance in a setting that never explains how the animal thing came to be. It sits awkwardly (like a lobster) at a 5/10.