FlixChatter Review: The Lobster (2016)

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When I first heard of the premise of this film, I was already sold. Then I saw the trailer and I knew it’d be a bizarre film, but nothing could prepare me for how bizarre it turned out to be. The film is set in a dystopian near future where it’s unlawful to be single according to the laws of The City. So they’re taken to The Hotel where they have to find a romantic partner in 45 days or they’d be transformed into a beast of their choice and sent off into The Woods. You’d think that’d be easy but they have to find partners who share their unique characteristics.

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We first see David (Colin Farrell), a recently divorced architect and his dog who’s actually his brother who didn’t make the strict 45-day rule. Even the conversation with the hotel clerk is so off the wall you can’t help but laugh. Later on I realize that David is the only one who has a name in this film, the other characters are only credited with their unique traits, or you could also say affliction. Ben Whishaw is the Limping Man, John C. Reilly is the Lisping Man and so on. The fact that the film is played straight with the actors delivering the weirdest dialog in a deadpan way makes it so hilarious. I find myself chuckling at the sheer peculiarity of it all, but yet I know there’s more to this than just a series of outlandish scenarios.

The film is inherently a comedy but it’s not just frivolous silly movie, but it’s a clever and unique way to make you think of relationships. The first half of the film shows the strict rules and customs of The Hotel, managed by the always-entertaining Olivia Coleman. Then the second half takes place in The Woods where single-dom is celebrated and romantic/sexual activity is severely punished. I have to admit that the film seems to lose its footing a bit in the second half as it’s not as engrossing. It also grows more sinister and there’s a pretty violent scene that made me wince. In the Woods is where we meet its leader (Léa Seydoux) and the Short-Sighted Woman (Rachel Weisz) with whom David forms an attachment.

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Now, to say more would be a disservice to those who haven’t seen this. I think it’s best going into this not knowing much about it other than the basic premise. The way things unfold is so amusing and it’s open to your own interpretation. Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos who co-wrote the script with Efthymis Filippou doesn’t spoon-feed you what he thinks about relationships. He doesn’t take sides on couple-dom vs single-ness, but he presents things in such a way that make you ponder about it for days. I really don’t know how I could survive in either scenario as there are dire consequences for your actions in both places. I appreciate Lanthimos’ style and this is certainly one of the most original concept I’ve seen. I’ve loved sci-fi concepts that’s more grounded in its presentation and the world the characters inhabit in this movie certainly looks plausible. The cinematography is beautiful with natural light and has a rather somber ambiance that stops just short of being morose. 

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The acting is brilliant all around. I’m most impressed with Farrell who’s perhaps at his most understated here. He looked so pudgy with a huge belly, a physical look I haven’t seen before as he’s not quite the shape-shifter like say, Christian Bale. His character is mostly passive and reflective, as he internalizes everything as he observes everything that’s going on around him. It’s quite interesting to watch his journey through the film, going from compliance to defiance to rebellion, right down to its ambiguous conclusion. Rachel Weisz is wonderful as always, she’s got many intriguing projects recently and she’s an actress I’ve grown to respect even more.

The finale proved to be rather frustrating and I think that’s what the filmmaker intended. It seems as if David was set out to do something really drastic, but the film ended before we know if went through with it. [SPOILER ALERT – highlight text to read the following sentence] As David brought a fork and knife, it seems to suggest he was going to blind himself so he’d share the same characteristic as the now blind Rachel Weisz, though I wonder why as he’s already escaped the strict confines of both The Hotel and The Woods.

Despite my frustration with some aspects of the film, I still have to give it top marks for originality and thought-provoking ideas. This is the first film from Lanthimos I’ve seen so far, but his previous films (Alps, Dogtooth) also have a peculiar concept. This is definitely unlike anything I’ve ever seen and I’m glad we have a filmmaker like him that pushes the envelope. I’d say if you don’t have an aversion to strange films, I highly recommend this one and you’d be glad you did.

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Have you seen ‘The Lobster’? I’m curious to hear what you think!

APRIL Viewing Recap + Movie(s) of the Month

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Spring is in the air!! It’s still relatively cool this weekend and the sun was being bashful yesterday so we spent some time at Minneapolis Museum of Art on Saturday during its Art in Bloom exhibition. It’s so lovely to see cherry blossom tree bloomin’ at the park across the street… it was a perfect Spring day!

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So here are movies I saw this month:

New-to-me Movies

(click on image to read my reviews on those marked w/ an asterisk)

Born to Be Blue
Born to Be Blue

MeetThePatels
Meet the Patels*

The Jungle Book
The Jungle Book*

A Streetcar Named Desire
A Streetcar Named Desire*

Look Who's Back
Look Who’s Back

Love & Friendship
Love & Friendship

The Lobster
The Lobster

Purple Rain
Purple Rain


Films watched at MSPIFF

Bollywood Hollywood
Bollywood Hollywood

My Internship in Canada
My Internship in Canada*

MrPig
Mr. Pig*

Beeba Boys
Beeba Boys*

Dragonfly
Dragonfly*

A Copy Of My Mind
A Copy Of My Mind*

The Fencer
The Fencer*

L'Attesa
L’Attesa*

Sing Street
Sing Street


I ended up seeing only nine films at MSPIFF on the big screen. Alas, I didn’t have time to watch any of the online screeners, but I hope to watch them later this month. If I had to pick three out of the ones I’ve seen at MSPIFF, it’d be The Fencer, Beeba Boys and Sing Street. So in total I watched 17 new-to-me movies which is quite a lot by my standards! I’ve reviewed pretty much ALL of the MSPIFF films except for Sing Street which I will do so next week!

Rewatches

Of course I’ll always make time for Sam Riley, so I rewatched the WWII drama Suite Francaise with my girlfriends on movie night on the first week of April, and Control which is still as cool and heartbreaking as the first time I saw it. There’s always time for period dramas too, of course, so I did manage to fit in the BBC miniseries of Sense & Sensibility after I saw the delightful Love & Friendship that’s based on Jane Austen’s epistolary novel. I also watched The Mummy, we weren’t planning on it but saw it came across the screen as we’re browsing Netflix and thought, what the heck. It was still pretty entertaining, though the whole time I was thinking about Brendan Fraser’s dismal career trajectory. So apparently the reboot starring Tom Cruise is set for June 2017!

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MOVIE(S) OF THE MONTH

I’ve watched quite a few music-related films lately, be that biopics or fiction, and I’ve enjoyed them quite a bit. It was tough to pick just one favorite this month given how many great indie films I’ve seen this past month. But I picked two that no doubt have awesome 80s-themed soundtracks as well as being immensely entertaining. So it’s three for three for John Carney, as I’ve enjoyed all three of his feature films so far (the first two being Once and Begin Again). Nice to see Carney went back to his Irish roots with Sing Street.

As for Purple Rain, it was a bittersweet experience watching it. I can’t believe I hadn’t seen it before yesterday, but I certainly ended April movie watching with a bang. The live performances were really the reason to see this, but Prince were decent in the dramatic scenes too, plus it’s a treat to see Minneapolis (esp First Avenue club) being featured prominently. Of course I teared up during the Purple Rain scene. Prince was absolutely phenomenal as one would expect, but that song was also very emotional in the context of the film (in which his character dedicated to his dad) and also emotional given the music icon’s no longer with us.

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Well that’s my recap of April. What’s YOUR favorite film of the month?