THE LOBSTER is Shyamalan's THE VILLAGE, but without the good bits. | THE FILMS OF CINEMA | Forum
So I just went to see the cautiously-acclaimed film THE LOBSTER today at a sold-out screening at the arts cinema. I was hoping it would live up to the last film I saw there, the excellent COHERENCE. Sadly, it didn't come anywhere near close to that film's brilliance.
This one kind of depressed me. It takes place in a future dystopian Britain where the world is divided between the rebel "loners" and the socially-integrated "couples". Get dumped, and you might end up being sent to a hotel for singles to "fall in love"; fail to do so soon enough, and you might end up being turned into an animal. I stress "might" in both cases because the rules of this world are not well-established, at all. Colin Farrell's character starts off en route to one of the "hotels", but the movie never really establishes how he got there. Later there's a scene in a shopping mall where a security guard stops Farrell's character to make sure he has a "partner". This should be a tense scene but falls flat, because of one major issue (that I'll go into in a sec) and also because the penalty for not being part of a couple is never specified. Do you get arrested, imprisoned, forced to attend the hotel (which is an actual hotel, not a prison... not sure how that works) or is there something worse that happens? Could you be turned into an animal?
And what of the animal transformations? Early in the movie, I thought that this whole aspect might be a gigantic lie that everyone accepts because it's "convenient"; we never see a transformation take place, after all. At one point in the movie it's implied that
Farrell's character transforms somebody into an animal himself,
And there are plenty of other things about the world the movie takes place in that go unexplored or unremarked. For example, how did it come to be this way? Why did anybody want to make it mandatory to be part of a "couple" at all times? How did people get to be "matched" according to random physical features or defects? How can two people be judged as "compatible" because they both have frequent nosebleeds? I think there's some really interesting potential for social commentary here - in particular just how much the people "buy into it" - but that potential goes completely unfulfilled. And that's a pity, because I think there's a theme of people "politicising" normal human interaction and forcing others to take "sides", that might have been an interesting commentary on our own world. Might have been... but wasn't.
The biggest problem, though, is that everybody talks in matter-of-fact "sci-fi" dialogue. This is very deliberate and very awkward. Moments like this are rife: at one point, a character remarks "I like your hair" to another character, who then starts listing the properties of her hair back to him. It's incredibly off-putting, and there didn't seem to be any reason for it in the film. Maybe I'm missing some kind of bigger point here, but honestly I don't think so... there just doesn't seem to be any reason why these people couldn't have talked like normal human beings do. It reminds me of THE VILLAGE, only way worse than that film; and THE VILLAGE had moments of greatness that THE LOBSTER never really achieves. You remember the stabbing bait-and-switch in THE VILLAGE? Yeah, you won't find anything like that in THE LOBSTER.
Man, I'm struggling to find something positive to say about this film. It's not badly-made, nor is it pretentious drivel like TRANCE; but there's just not anything worthwhile about it either. The cinematography isn't great (if you're looking for an interesting vision of the future, you won't find it here; the best this film has to offer is some nice shots of the British countryside that look as though they were taken in a region like the Black Mountains). The scoring isn't as bad as THE VILLAGE's (which if you recall had moments that were clearly intended to be comical scored with music that would've sounded more fitting during the battle scenes of GLADIATOR), but it's not good either; the same musical cues keep getting repeated, way beyond the point of being tiresome. There are good actors like Farrell, John C Reilly, Olivia Colman and others, all wasted. Neither the world nor the characters in it are established well-enough for this to be emotionally-affecting or satirically interesting. So without any of that, what do you have?
Well, the answer is simple: a film without anything to recommend it. This one's had a pretty good critical reception, which makes me think it might be a "Paul's Village" kind of deal. Because the audience did not like it. There were some vocal discontentment during the film, and after it there were a lot of noticeable "Thank God that's over"s. If you polled that audience, I don't think the average reaction would be a positive one. It wasn't hostile to the levels that the audience of PROMETHEUS was, but it wasn't particularly friendly either.
In my COHERENCE review, I said that that film really showed what you can do when under pressure and with massive limitations in terms of time and budget. THE LOBSTER is the exact opposite of that.
Sorry guys. I don't like ripping into the "indie" crowd, but I can't in good conscience recommend you see this one. Not even wait for it on DVD. I just can't see anything about it that justifies spending time watching it.
So I've been reading some other reviews of this, and apparently the "dialogue" is supposed to be representative of modern computer speak / texting / etc. I have several problems with this theory, namely:
1) The only people who'll give me definitions of "hair" if I say "you've got nice hair" are search engines. And I don't for the life of me understand what's clever or satirical about having actual human beings speak like present-day search engines (which will probably be vastly improved by the time this film is set in anyway).
2) For a film that features no dialogue but pseudo-computer-speak, it sure as heck doesn't feature a lot of computers. I don't think I can recall a single one being used in the entire movie. If the entire point of this thing was that human communication has progressed to the point where people now talk like search engines, wouldn't it have been a good idea to establish that at some point in human history, search engines have actually existed in this world?
3) Even if I could accept the premise of people learning to talk like search engines instead of human beings, why did this come about? And how? And what's it got to do with anything else that happens in the movie? Is the "compatibility" thing supposed to be a satire of modern-day computer dating being too superficial? And if so, is there any single other bit of evidence (apart from people judging "compatibility" on whether they share qualities like a propensity for nosebleeds or short-sightedness) that this is the case? There's barely any context to anything that happens in this film.
Yeah, I'm sure I could come up with others, but those are the main ones.
I think most of the reviewers of this film, who are cautiously positive about it, are giving it way too much credit. I agree with them to the extent that it provokes some interesting thoughts; but it never actually does anything with them! I do appreciate a film that doesn't feel the need to "spoon-feed" its audience. And that film would be THE FORGIVENESS OF BLOOD or COHERENCE or something. Not this one!
I mean, somebody who's seen this one help me out here. Am I just not "getting it"? I don't think there's much to it to "get", and (while I hate using the "everyone else thinks so, so it must be true" argument) my perception was that most of the audience in the cinema last week agreed with me. Can somebody refute some of my criticisms of this film? Am I missing something? I honestly want a second opinion on this one - and from someone who's not a professional film critic.
I dunno, Paul. I absolutely loved this movie. It's definitely not for everyone but I found it bizarre, thought-provoking and hilarious. The filmatism is strong, the performances are great, and the world-building (however non-sensical) is fantastic. Poking holes in the world makes about as much sense to me as those guys who always go "Where are the humans in Cars!?!", so I just went with it. It honestly seems like the filmmakers wrote a whole sci-fi dystopian YA romance trilogy while smoking particularly strong weed, then somehow condensed everything to under 2 hours, which after sitting through 10 hours of Hunger Games, automatically gets bonus points from me.
I can't address most of your criticisms since they're all valid, and "you either get it or you don't" is basically a statement that I hate because it means nothing, but it honestly applies in this case - i can see myself not enjoying this movie at all if I was in a bad mood, and I can't really describe why I found it funny. The setup, the bizarre dialogue, the inappropriate horror-movie music- there's so much that sounds disastrous on paper (what the hell were the actors thinking when they read this script??), but it works like gangbusters while you're watching it. Not to sound corny, but this movie is an experience, describing it is like describing a Terrence Malick movie to someone and expecting them to like it as much as you did. It's not going to happen. The only movie I can vaguely compare this to is Repo Man, where the humor is so random and makes no sense, and you really can't tell someone "there's a really funny scene where a guy's eating a can of food labelled 'Food'" and expect the other person to fiind that even remotely funny.
Storywise, it also reminded me of It Follows, where it's obvious there's some kind of metaphor going on, but it's so out-there and not really on-the-nose, so you're constantly wondering "what the hell are they trying to say?" I think if there's ANY meaning in this movie, it's not about love, but about how we want to be "loved" so bad, we'll lie to ourselves and our partners and everyone else so they can hear what we think they want to hear, and we can say what we think we're supposed to say. It's kinda cynical and nihilistic, but I mean, *SPOILERS* it's a story about a guy who goes from a society where he has to fake feelings with a horrible person because he wants everyone to think he's in love, to going to another society where he has to fake he DOESN'T have feelings with someone so he doesn't get mutilated, to then infiltrating the 1st society and pretending to be in love while simultaneously pretending not to be in love. There's layers upon layers of head-spinning lies in this movie - someone's always lying, someone's always about to get caught. If anything it's reminiscent of a nasty social comedy like Curb Your Enthusiasm, complete with asshole protagonists. Think about the scene where he's about to get shot by Reilly and randomly goes on and on buttering him up, telling him he's his best friend in the most unconvincing way, saying all kinds of unbelievably patronizing stuff, and it works! Or the scene where Farrell takes time out from a heist to pull off some Larry David-esque petty revenge on Ben Whishaw that backfires on him. Or the scene where *SUPER SPOILERS* Weisz gets blinded and asks why they didn't blind Farrell instead. It's dark and nasty but also probably realistic. Then again, my gf found the whole thing to be a fairly straightforward forbidden love story, and stilll loved it.
Oh yeah, i normally hate indie-movie ambiguous endings, but this one I actually didn't mind, mainly because there were about 3 or 4 ways it could have gone instead of the usual two. I would have actually preferred it if SPOILER Farrell just sat back down with Weisz and pretended that he blinded himself when he really didn't, since that would kinda keep with the theme of the movie and it seems really in character. Then again, it's quite possible that's what happened after the credits rolled.
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