In the opening scene a distressed woman parks her car on the side of a road, in the middle of a rainstorm, and shoots a cow repeatedly. I can’t not like a movie that starts out like this.
The Lobster is a lite science fiction tale in so far it’s set in a world in which unwed adults are forced, by law, to find mates. If they fail to take lovers, they’re sent to a machine which transforms them into an animal. The good news is the losers get turned into the animal of their choice. The main character, played by Colin Farrell, wants to become a lobster should he fail his probation period as a single adult.
Why a lobster? Farrell’s character doesn’t have a great reason (most of the characters don’t), but I wouldn’t be surprised if it meant something deeper… or nothing at all. Either way, it’s pretty damn funny. The Lobster is a strange movie, not in a look-how-quirky-and-offbeat-I-am! sense, but genuinely strange. It seems to find being strange as natural as breathing. Then again, maybe it’s not as strange as the social norms it satirizes.
So in case you’re not clear on the setup, let’s go over it in detail: if you’re single you get sent to a hotel in which you’ve got forty-five days to find a match before you’re sent to the animal transformation room. The management arrange a variety of activities for the, uh, contestants, so to say, encouraging everything from phony meet-cutes to premature marriages. Each morning the men are tortured by sexual stimulation, but anybody caught relieving the tension without a partner are punished severely. The hotel manager (Olivia Colman) seems to have a contingency for any kind of dating crisis: at one point she tells a newlywed couple, “If you encounter any problems you cannot resolve yourselves, you will be assigned children. That usually helps.”
The guests talk like they’re auditioning for Love Connection. The management sound like those insufferably happy folks who’re constantly trying to set up their single friends. I’m not sure how these actors pull it all off with a straight face, but the blooper reel is probably longer than the movie.
Another activity the hotel encourages is hunting. Rather than hunt the animals roaming the wilderness around the hotel (because they used to be humans), the guests are forced to hunt runaway single people with tranquilizer darts. The guests who bag the most are rewarded.
I’m trying to avoid spoilers here, but Rachel Weisz and Léa Seydoux are in this, only they don’t come into the movie until it becomes an entirely different movie altogether. (It’s the kind of movie which blows up spectacularly early on, rather than meting out its fun until the very end… thankfully, it’s got enough fun to spare.) John C. Reilly is right there from the start, playing the kind of dopey character he plays so well. (Can we all just stop and marvel at how he gets in so many different types of movies, even though he often only plays a certain character?)
I’ve grown to like Colin Farrell in movies like In Bruges and the better than expected (but not great) Fright Night remake. You’ve got to have massive talent to claw your way up from the likes of 2003’s Daredevil, in which his role was nothing short of embarrassing. The Lobster makes me like him even more. It’s my favorite dark comedy in years, but heed this warning: things can get very dark at times.