The Lobster – Painfully Pretentious

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2star“We dance alone. That’s why we only play electronic music.”

In a dystopian near future, single people, according to the laws of The City, are taken to The Hotel, where they are obliged to find a romantic partner in forty-five days or are transformed into animals and sent off into The Woods. Best of luck, right?

If director Yorgos Lanthimos wants you to get anything out of this movie, it’s that society influences or constricts our ability to love. As blogger Adam Riske at FThisMovie accurately explains it, “It’s basically if Her was made by someone who hates life.”

If The Lobster is an acquired taste, it’s one that I have not and will not acquire. Ever.

the lobster movie dance alone

 

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I first heard about The Lobster last year when it was selected to compete for the Palme d’Or at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival and won the Jury Prize.The film is directed by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos in his English language feature film debut. More buzz surrounding it circulated later that year at the Toronto Film Festival as praise from critics and bloggers continued to pour in. Reviews were outstanding for this quirky little indie, and I was ready to embrace the absurdist sci-fi reality flick and potentially consider it to prematurely be included in my year’s top 10 list.

Lanthimos made comments regarding the film that were absolutely fascinating and relevant.

“We make observations about the way we live and organize our lives — and structure our societies — so we wanted to do something about romantic relationships and how single people are treated within society. The pressure that is on them in order to be with someone and … the pressure that they put on themselves to be with someone. What we like to do is push those situations to extremes in order to reveal the absurdity behind them, behind things that we consider normal in our everyday life.” via The Washington Post 

The exploration of society pressures in dating is rarely exposed on screen, but what I discovered is that while there’s humor in this film, the tale is ultimately grim.

This isn’t a date movie. Trust me.

“There’s no denying that director Yorgos Lanthimos makes it a point to tell his tale with a cynical, dark, depressing tone. We wonder what happened to Lanthimos that made him have such a depressing outlook about life and love. Every word and phrase has an underlying purpose, every scene is ultimately a metaphor. This is a big trope of the indie genre, and it doesn’t always mean it’s effective.” via Lolo Loves Film 

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Featuring a cast of A-list actors, including Colin Farrel, Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman and Lea Seydoux, this movie has all the ingredients to produce something great (or at least worth watching).

In a not so distant future where single people attend a month-long dating retreat in a luxury hotel, companionship is vital for human survival. This is a hotel of lost souls forced into a absurd dating regimen. If they don’t find a suitable partner in the 45-day stay, they are transformed into an animal of their choice and released into the countryside. People can gain extra time in their stay with hunting sessions by shooting lowly singles hiding out in the woodland. Each kill earns them an extra day at the hotel and increased opportunity in the dating arena. You better hope you have the finesse of Katniss Everdeen to succeed, or you’re not going to get very far.

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Some scenes offer a chuckle here or there, but the dialogue is as sedated as the emotionless characters themselves. The flat delivery of the lines loses momentum after the first 30 minutes of the nearly two hour movie. The absurdism coupled with the blatant social commentary fails to find me. While I was prepared for the unusual, the awkward and the strangeness this movie would be, I just couldn’t enjoy it. Rachel Weisz, I haven’t seen you in ages, and you give me this monotone malarkey?

What was the director thinking?

“It was very clear that we weren’t going to just make something completely different. It was hopefully a progression from what we were already doing. It was maybe a more accessible subject because it’s one of the main things that we’re preoccupied with in life — relationships and love. We tried to approach those kind of people.

This is an honest account of the view I have so far based on what I’ve seen and experienced. Hopefully, the film is open-ended and open to interpretation, with plenty of questions about this topic. I think human relationships — the whole thing is cruel. It’s very difficult. But I also believe that, probably, although much of it is fake and fabricated, because we feel the need to go through all these things, there’s probably some truth to it here and there. For other people it’s a bigger truth for a bigger duration. For others, less. I don’t really have the final answer. Is there real love and how will you find it and how you will you know?” via IndieWire 

While I can understand his purpose behind the script, I couldn’t find it accessible. My boyfriend had similar notions that he expressed more eloquently than I could.

“It really, really bored me like a David Lynch film. Personally, I just don’t like that style. The story was an excellent commentary of modern relationships, but the narration and dialog were both dull and lazy. On the flip side, it had some strikingly beautiful cinematography and told a wonderful story visually when dialog ceased. Sure, I get that this lack of serenity is on purpose, but the dialog was very Bukowski(esque), and I can’t stand Bukowski. I do think they did everything for a reason whether it was for driving points or irony, but I found no real value in this reasoning. It was like an uneducated hipster drop-out made his attempt at crossing Wes Anderson and David Lynch, and thankfully didn’t try his Tarantino hat on while he was at it.”

It’s undoubtedly a very well-made film. This isn’t your average movie; from the cinematography to the accompanying score, it hit high marks. But the drabness of the film coupled with the sedated characters and script made it hard for me to appreciate what the story was trying to tell.

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10 thoughts on “The Lobster – Painfully Pretentious

  1. Great review! I totally feel you on a lot of your argument. This film is riddled with that classic indie artifice, but it is an entirely artificial setting. This movie worked for me…way better than it did for you. I enjoyed the constant metaphors, the brilliant deadpan humor, stemming from the dialogue and its delivery (I love the voiceover narration from Weisz…so totally unique in this case in its brutal honesty.) and growing through the masterful cinematography, production design, and score.

    I’m with your boyfriend on Lynch by the way. I have never made it through one of his movies. This one was no Lynch for me. I laughed my ass off through the first half and left with my heart beating out of my chest. No movie has ever done that to me. Favorite of the year so far.

    • Thanks, Kevin! Like I said, this is definitely a film I can appreciate (cinematography, score, etc.), but not one I would choose to watch again. I laughed a little initially, but it just got old after a while :\ Oh well…

  2. I watched this movie just last night and completely agree with your review. I am glad that I watched a film with unique content but saddened that it honestly failed to engage me past the first act. It looked gorgeous however and the score was quite great.

  3. I couldn’t get into this either. Then they killed the dog and I was out. But even if that didn’t happen the movie was just not accessible, as you said. Also Weisz….between this and Youth…snoozefest.

  4. I already lined this one up as among those that I’ll watch soonest. The premise is just too intriguing, but I guess I’ll keep my expectations low-er. The second chance animal quiz on their website was a hoot though. 🙂

  5. I know this thing has gotten a lot of love, but I just can’t muster any excitement for it. It just doesn’t interest me at all. Maaay give it a look later on.

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