CONSIDER THE LOBSTER
Romance is parity of suffering in The Lobster, a new film starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz. Imagine a world where anyone who’s single has to go to a hotel and find the love of their life within a couple days, or else be turned into an animal. Perhaps it’s not that hard to imagine — a bad breakup can make a girl feel as though the rest of the world has engaged in a massive conspiracy towards marriage, with all the couples of the world fake smiling and pretending they like together just to avoid the terror of being alone. (I mean, hypothetically speaking, of course).
But this is the world The Lobster, the newest film by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos, got lots of buzz at Cannes and is screening locally as part of the Beirut International Film Festival. It’s advertised in the Festival blurb as a “love story,” but this seems a bit misleading given its grimness.
Checking into the heartbreak hotel after his wife has left him, protagonist David (Farrell) finds out that he cannot check an option for bisexual, he must pick one or the other. It’s a kind of black and white totalitarianism that is woven throughout the film. When couples do fall in love, it’s because of their matching wounded-ness, real or imagined. It plays out like a Wes Andersen film gone wrong. The characters speak to each other in flat, strange dialogue like they all have loneliness-induced Asperger’s Syndrome. A man with a limp is looking for same, but ends up faking a nosebleed to win the heart of a woman who’s constantly getting them. It’s brutal, he admits, but it’s better than the alternative.
The Lobster parodies what we, or perhaps society, imagines will happen if we end up alone — taking our fears to the literal extreme. It’s painful to watch — John C. Reilly, everyone’s favorite lovable lug — gets his hand forcibly placed in a hot toaster as punishment for masturbation, which is strictly not allowed in the Hotel California. A very cute dog, David’s brother, actually gets — oh, well I won’t spoil the surprise.
And The Lobster is the rare movie that actually surprises you. By the closing scene my mouth was agape. I turned to my screening buddy and said, “What the fuck?” And when was the last time that’s happened in the movies?
Screens October 12 at 9:30 at Cinema Montaigne as part of the Beirut International Film Festival.