New York Film Festival Review: The Lobster, Or, If David Lynch Had a Baby With Wes Anderson

If David Lynch had a baby with Wes Anderson cinematically. Keep the mpreg fanfic to your AO3 accounts, you perverts.

This extremely offbeat relationship satire by Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth), screening at the New York Film Festival, stars Colin Farrell as David, a doughy-around-the-middle singleton who books a room at a hotel in the hopes that he’ll find love during his stay. If he doesn’t, he’ll be turned into an animal, because that’s what happens in the world of The Lobster.

in bruges

Colin Farrell’s track record is spotty, to put it mildly. Like Pitt, Pine, and to a certain extent Marsden, Farrell’s an actor who tends to get bland, leading man-type roles because… well, because he looks like Colin Farrell. But put him in weirder movies, and he can really shine. In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths, for me, make up for a lot of Alexanders. Nothing can make up for Winter’s Tale, God bless it. That complete and utter shitshow would be an anomaly in anyone’s career.

wtfw wtfwe

All that is to say that I BELIEVE IN COLIN FARRELL (the t-shirts are at the printer’s), and it’s nice to see that he can effectively play the quirky sad sack in a movie that’s not directed by Martin McDonagh. If “quirky sad sack” calls to mind the films of Wes Anderson, well, it’s something of an apt comparison. Across the board, the performances in The Lobster are of the deadpan variety, favored by Anderson, that  tends to add a layer of comedy to things that, on the surface, don’t feel like they should be funny. But Lanthimos, who also co-wrote the script, goes darker than the reigning King of Quirk has ever dared. There are a lot–and I mean a lot–of moments of the “This is horrible. Am I supposed to be laughing at this?… Shit, I’m actually laughing at this” variety. That starts with the very first scene, which startled a chuckle out of me with its abrupt cut from a woman nonchalantly shooting a donkey in the head (it’s never explained why) to the film’s title card.

Several people in my screening left the theatre mid-way through the movie. A dog dies. There was some definite hands-over-eyes action on my part. Things have a tendency to get, in the immortal words of Marty McFly, heavy.

The supporting cast is filled with people who make the weird-shit-delivered-in-a-serious-voice thing work brilliantlyRachel Weisz, Olivia Colman and Ben Whishaw (serious and British!), John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux (serious and French!). The worldbuilding in The Lobster is tremendous, presenting an alternate reality is completely outrageous and completely recognizable in terms of how we in the people-don’t-get-turned-into-animals-if-they’re-single-for-too-long world approach relationships.

That said, about three-quarters of the way through The Lobster‘s plot goes off on a different tangent, taking us from a worldbuilding-heavy narrative to one that’s more (though certainly not completely) a straightforward drama. At that point, it started to lose a bit of steam for me; I didn’t feel as much substance as I’d like in the spaces between people being weird.

 

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