'The Lobster' review: Bizarre, thrilling, hilarious & heartbreaking all at once
Despite its unassuming title, "The Lobster" (screening at AFI FEST on Nov. 6 and 10) is a brilliant hybrid of film genre that simply should not combine so well - this wonderfully odd movie is equal parts thriller, drama, romance, comedy and science fiction. Its dry and offbeat humor is every bit as sharp as its heartbreaking and moving dramatic moments.
In short: In a dystopian society that revers happy couples above all else, single adults must live in The Hotel - where they have 45 days to find their perfect mate or else they will be turned into an animal. Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly star. (Watch the trailer)
Like all great science fiction, "The Lobster" simply uses a crazy setup to tell a human story - in this case, a beautiful story about love, companionship and loneliness. Exactly why this society has elected to turn otherwise normal people into animals if they cannot find love is never clearly explained -- but that's OK, because "The Lobster" prioritizes human drama over annoying details.
Virtually every scene of this movie are racked with high character or story stakes. First and foremost, every character faces the existential crisis of being alone and possibly never finding their "perfect match." It also turns the very idea of a "perfect match" on its head - pointing out the absurdity of the standards some people use to find a relationship (if only to escape loneliness). The final scene is a massive statement on the lengths some resort to in a desperate bid to keep a relationship going. There's always a running clock on the characters -- they either have 45 days in the Hotel or they face constant threat of capture/death as "loners" (those who have fled the Hotel and rejected enforced coupledom).
"The Lobster" is a beautifully executed exercise in tonal contrasts that blends together beautifully. Emotionally heartbreaking scenes are gracefully accented with a wickedly funny humor that is dark and offbeat. This is a sweet story of love that does not shy away from the brutality inherent to a world with kills single people without hesitation.
Voice over is usually a mortal sin of storytelling -- but Weisz's voice over dialogue is poignant, poetic and absolutely hilarious. There are no obvious punchlines, but "The Lobster" finds its humor from the characters and the situation -- and delivering insane dialogue with banality and dryness only further points out the darkly funny aspects of this world. This film manages to find sharp character humor in kicking children, loneliness and even suicide.
While the first half is more structured and interesting, as it world builds and creates a grim scenario for the Hotel patrons, "The Lobster" is more free form and less disciplined in its second half, which focuses more on the "loners." This second half is more emotionally complex, however, the narrative itself flirts dangerously close to the "meandering" territory. Overall, this elegant swipe at relationships and loneliness earns bonus points for its innovative and playful combination of differing tones.
Final verdict: "The Lobster" is the best kind of weird possible. It's oddly funny and emotionally grim tones are aided by a relentless background intensity that keeps this film movie and interesting. It's smart sci-fi that never talks down to the audience and invests its efforts in creating strong emotional stakes for its characters. This is absolutely a surreal movie that must be seen to be believed.
"The Lobster" is not yet rated and is slated for theatrical release in the U.S. in 2016. It screens during the 2015 AFI FEST.