AB­SURDLY GREAT “LOB­STER”

The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - RICHARD ROEPER

Remember when Colin Farrell was pretty much THE lead­ing young man in Hol­ly­wood, as white-hot a ris­ing star as any­one walk­ing the red car­pet in the early 2000s?

Fast for­ward to 2016, and even though Farrell isn’t yet 40, he’s more Paul Gia­matti than Brad Pitt in “The Lob­ster,” a mid-year con­tender for the most un­usual and most dis­turb­ing movie of the year.

For about an hour, “The Lob­ster” is pure ab­sur­dist great­ness, brim­ming with pitch-black shock hu­mour and big, wild ideas. The sec­ond half of the film isn’t nearly as imag­i­na­tive and star­tling, but I walked out of the screening with the sure knowl­edge I wouldn’t soon shake off its most in­spired se­quences.

Farrell is an off­beat, dead­pan de­light as David, a soft-bod­ied, mid­dle-aged sad sack with a bad mous­tache and two-for-the-price-of-one eye­glasses, who is sud­denly sin­gle af­ter his wife has an af­fair and leaves him.

David must now move into The Ho­tel, where guests have 45 days to find a life part­ner or they’ll be trans­formed into the an­i­mal of their choice. Lit­er­ally trans­formed.

And here I com­plain when there’s a 3 p.m. check-in time and an 11 a.m. check­out time and yet they call it a full day’s stay.

Whereas most guests choose to be­come a dog or a horse if they don’t find love, David says he’ll be­come a lob­ster, and he’s got some solid rea­son­ing be­hind that choice: Lob­sters live for decades, and they con­tinue to grow, eat and re­pro­duce un­til they die.

And David’s quite the swim­mer and he loves the wa­ter, so there’s that, too. (What goes un­said is un­told thou­sands of lob­sters are plucked from the waters far be­fore their time, shipped to restau­rants and dropped into tanks with other doomed lob­sters, at which point hu­mans sin­gle out which lob­ster they’d like to have ex­e­cuted so they can eat it.)

David has a dog. The dog was once his brother. Af­ter fail­ing to find true love af­ter 45 days, David’s brother was turned into a dog. David’s dog.

Let the dystopian an­a­lyzes and Kafka com­par­isons be­gin!

Some of the ho­tel guests find love, at which point they’re honoured in a cer­e­mony and then closely mon­i­tored for two weeks so the man­age­ment can con­firm it’s the real deal. Oth­ers con­spire to fake a con­nec­tion so they can be spared from be­ing turned into a don­key or a swan or a bird.

Oh, and I should tell you about The Hunt. Ev­ery day, guests of The Ho­tel are armed with tran­quil­lizer guns and go into the for­est to hunt down the Lon­ers, a rogue group of rad­i­cals with their own bizarre set of rules — first and fore­most a ban on even the slight­est hint of ro­mance. For ev­ery Loner a ho­tel guest bags, the guest is granted an ex­tra day’s stay at The Ho­tel. (One par­tic­u­larly skilled ho­tel guest has ac­cu­mu­lated some 100 days of bonus time.)

The eclec­tic cast in­cludes John C. Reilly as Lisp­ing Man, so named be­cause, well, he has a lisp; Ben Whishaw as Limp­ing Man, and you’re al­ready ahead of me about the ori­gins of that name; An­ge­liki Papou­lia as Heart­less Woman, per­haps the most fright­en­ing char­ac­ter in any movie of 2016 to date; Lea Sey­doux as the hardcore leader of the Lon­ers; and Rachel Weisz as the Loner who be­comes the most im­por­tant per­son in the world to David.

“The Lob­ster” is the first English­language film from the Greek di­rec­tor Yor­gos Lan­thi­mos, whose best­known work is “Dog­tooth,” which as far as I know is the only ab­sur­dist film to ref­er­ence “Jaws,” “Rocky IV” and the “Ma­niac” dance se­quence from “Flash­dance.”

As a so­cial satire, “The Lob­ster” is hit and miss. The pre­vail­ing com­men­tary about a world in which you’re lit­er­ally turned into an an­i­mal if you’re not part of a cou­ple seems a bit dated; the al­le­gory might have been more pointed a gen­er­a­tion ago.

Lan­thi­mos scores some points with his take on the sup­pos­edly free­dom-lov­ing Lon­ers, who might have even more rules than the sys­tem against which they’re re­belling.

Farrell ab­so­lutely kills it as David. Weisz gives one of her best per­for­mances since her Os­car-win­ning turn in “The Con­stant Gar­dener.”

I can’t over­state the weird­ness of this movie. You might love it — or you might walk out af­ter 20 min­utes.

DESPINA SPYROU,

Colin Farrell has 45 days to find a life part­ner in the de­cidely weird film, “The Lob­ster.”

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