The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
From someone who spends most of their time alone, and has made peace with the fact that they’ll probably be alone forever, this movie is really fucking depressing.
The Lobster (Picturehouse Entertainment)
Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
Written by Efthimis Filippou & Yorgos Lanthimos
This movie made me uncomfortable. The Lobster has a few funny moments. A few laugh out loud, what-the-fuck moments. But mostly it’s just cringe-worthy and violent and unwatchable. I guess you have to get the joke. The whole thing about society requiring that humans pair off. And how being alone gets you ostracized. And I guess that’s the case… I guess. In the Lobster this is way way waaaaaaaaaaay over the top with single people being reassigned to live their lives as the animal of their choice (basically an execution). But as “one of the lonely people” I just took all this nonsensical forced pairing crap and ignored it as less of an allegory on our society and more of a plot point about their absurd fictional one. So once that whole part of the movie is disregarded as not being a distorted reflection of us, but a wholesale fiction, then all that’s left of The Lobster is violence and bad behavior and a lack of empathy bordering on the psychotic. It’s not funny. It’s more disturbing than anything resembling funny and it made me incredibly uncomfortable. Let me explain why this movie is depressing and awkwardly unfunny with many many spoilers.
The Lobster is the story of three locations in a dark parallel universe. This doesn’t represent our future. It’s not our future because nothing is more advanced than what we have. In fact the movie is ultra-low-tech. The City, a place where anyone walking alone is asked to show proof that they are in a relationship or are shipped off to the second location. The Hotel, a disturbing concentration camp where the newly single have 45 days to find “love” or get reassigned as an animal (this is basically execution but I guess the story was violent enough) unless of course they can escape to the third location. The Forest, outside of the city, where escapees from The Hotel live as refugees and also where the singles from The Hotel go to hunt down and kill single people to gain one extra day of existence as an unmarried, single human being imprisoned at a sadistic hotel. This is some dark and annoyingly unfunny, absurdist crap.
The Lobster is outrageously violent (like Logan violent) but the filmmakers take pains to show women being the aggressors towards men and not the other way around. Everyone is thirsty. Thirsty for sex. Thirsty for love. And thirsty for blood. At one point a woman, describe in the film as being heartless (but not particularly any more heartless than the other awful characters), kicks a dog to death in order to prove that her lover has emotional feelings for his pet. It’s disgusting and well over-the-top. At one point a woman who runs the refugee camp in the forest blinds another woman for having the gall to fall in love with a man at her singles enclave. This is pointless and cruel. The Lobster is full of pointless cruelty that is only sometimes funny. Dark violent humor that seems more like misplaced anger toward an ex? (who hurt you, Yorgos?)
Guests at the hotel are subjected to forced sexual arousal but restricted from masturbation. This would have been funny except that the punishment for getting caught masturbating is having your fingers burnt off in a toaster. But The Lobster is not all bad. Rachel Weisz is heartbreaking and brilliant as a hotel escapee. And in the middle of this violent nightmare, there is a touching romance between Colin “Hotel Guest” Farrell and Rachel “Refugee” Weisz. Or “un-touching” romance, because they’re not allowed to touch. It is cute and romantic as they make up their own silent language so as not to get caught having a relationship. But this beautiful part of the movie gets lost in all the bleak, violent stuff surrounding it.
One of the actually funny themes moving through The Lobster is the idea that all relationships are built on some common trait. The two leads share a similar visual malady. Other couples can both sing. Or they both have limps. Or both get nose bleeds. Or absolutely anything else. But it’s never about love. This gets blown further and further out of proportion when the main character decides to blind himself in order to stay with the female lead who was made blind earlier in the film. He loves her already but believes that they can’t be together unless they are both blind. It is absurd. And it’s supposed to be funny. But as he directs the steak knife into his eyeball, it did not make me laugh. It made me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s just me but blinding yourself with a steak knife for love is not even a little bit funny.
There are, however, a couple of jokes that hit home. And a couple of themes that resonate. Like when the lonely older woman who is sweet and sexy but depressed because she doesn’t want to die (live as an animal… whatever), throws herself, awkwardly but sweetly at the main character. She’s smart. She’s funny. She tells him all this stuff she’ll do sexually but he ignores her because he instead wants the younger girl who would eventually beat his dog to death. Or the even younger girl with the nose bleeds. This is funny, poignant, and depressingly accurate, as he ignores this possible loving relationship for two horrible… younger women. And there’s this great joke where couples who are having problems are assigned children because that always makes it better. But then the sexy older woman later tries to kill herself and this too would be powerful if she had jumped from a higher floor. But she doesn’t. And she lands on her face and lies there screaming in a pool of her own blood for five minutes of screen time. Wailing and screaming in pain while our hero chats up the future dog murderer. This is also supposed to be funny. This is about as funny as Donald Trump being president.
The Lobster masquerades as a commentary on how our society values people in relationships over those who don’t mind the loneliness of being single. And the movie illustrates this point when guests at the hotel are shown a pantomime of a lonely man dying alone. With no one to give him the Heimlich maneuver, he chokes on his food. Then the guests are shown a situation where a woman walking by herself (in what has been established as an incredibly cruel fictional world) is being sexually harassed and then raped, with no one to come to her aid.
The Lobster isn’t so much making fun of these societal tropes and traditions of the spinster and the hermit and the fear of dying alone as much as it’s reinforcing them. Yet it’s not this heavy-handed loner bashing that’s the biggest problem with the film. It’s the cruelty of every single one of its characters. None of these people are lovable. Not one. The married people suck. The single people suck. Even the animals are complete dicks. Honestly, I was ready for some quality entertainment when in the first scene a woman gets out of her car and shoots a horse in what is obviously a fit of jealous rage based on personal pain inflicted on her by that particular animal. It is an hysterically funny moment and I’m thinking, Great! this is going to be a good movie. No. It just declines from there. It just gets more violent from there. More animals being killed and people being mutilated for masturbating.
The Lobster is a cruel violent movie. Filled with cruel violent characters. Desperately seeking cruel and violent misguided love connections. And even though it can be mildly entertaining sometimes. Most of the time, The Lobster just made me feel uncomfortable. Uncomfortably sad and lonely… and that’s not why we go to the movies.