Colin Farrell is an astonishing actor, but you’d never know it if you’ve wasted your time watching dreck like “Saving Mr. Banks”, or ill-advised remakes like 2012’s “Total Recall”. The problem is…that’s the crap that people pay to see. But I’m mesmerized by his work in films like 2005’s brilliant “The New World”, 2006’s criminally underrated “Miami Vice”, and 2011’s terrific remake of “Fright Night”. That guy is incredible. And “The Lobster” proves to be a superb return to form for the actor. Also, Yorgos Lanthimos wowed me a few years back with his masterful “Dogtooth”. That film picked up a 2010 Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film (from Greece). It’s my understanding that this is his first English-language movie. That move didn’t cause him to miss a step. “The Lobster” had me squirming and laughing out loud. It’s some kind of great.
This dystopian, absurdist comedy opens in a hotel. We quickly find that single men and women are brought there to find life partners. They have 45 days to accomplish a match…or they are turned into the animal of their choice. David (the fantastic, Oscar-nom worthy, Colin Farrell…don’t hold your breath, he’ll never get one for this) chooses to become a lobster if he fails, because of their longevity and his love of the sea. There are hotel rules, like a ban on masturbation. Breaking the rules force punishments like having your hand stuck in a hot toaster. Also, similar distinguishing characteristics are strongly encouraged. So, a lisping man (superb John C. Reilly) hopes to find a woman with a speech impediment. After a series of events (involving violence, deception and death), David escapes into the woods and joins a cult of loners. They are led by a beautiful, yet harsh, woman (wonderful Lea Seydoux). The people of the woods have an opposite philosophy, that punishes physical contact, or romance, with mutilation. And then the glasses-wearing David meets a short-sighted woman (marvelous Rachel Weisz).
So far, I’ve only experienced Yorgos Lanthimos films at home. Man, would it be something to see something like “The Lobster” in an actual theater and watch folks squirm! Mr. Lanthimos penned this screenplay with Efthymis Filippou (who also shared credit for “Dogtooth”), and it’s a marvelously crafted one. Without question, the film recalls things like “1984” and “The Handmaid’s Tale”–while also being an insighful original. “The Lobster” is chock full of incredible performances, and I haven’t even mentioned Ben Whishaw as “limping man” and Ariane Labed as “the maid”. This film has a frightening and hilarious vision of a world in the not-too-distant future, that almost certainly would never come to literal fruition. But the societal metaphors in place, chronicling the choices we make, along with the ones that are heavily influenced by outsiders, are rich, poignant and cutting. I haven’t been able to shake “The Lobster”. It’s one of the year’s finest films.