I can only hope that the creators of “The Lobster” – Greek writer/director Yorgos Lanthimos and his co-writer Efthymis Filippou – find treatment at a good drug-rehabilitation clinic. A black and disturbing comedy, it can only be the creation of medically warped minds.
David (Colin Farrell) checks into a remote Irish hotel with his brother Bob. Bob is a collie. Bob unfortunately had a previous failed trip to said hotel, having been single and unable to find love within the 45 days required of the hotel management. So they turned him into a dog. Such is the fate of every ‘guest’ at the hotel, ‘checked in’ by security staff when individuals fail to produce the necessary ‘couple’ certificate and have to face the consequences. This is a highly dystopian future: think “Never Let Me Go” without the benefit of viable organs. The good news is that you can choose what animal you want to be transformed into. Dave’s choice is a lobster because they have blue blood (curiously, my favourite trivia question), they live for 100 years and maintain their fertility throughout their life.
It becomes clear that all of the hotel guests are basically a set of dysfunctional folks, many of which would be left sitting at the back in the local disco. ‘Love’ is perceived as finding something – anything – in common with the other person. Find love, and you get a double room, an assigned child, and a yacht to stay on. Fail and pet food awaits.
There is a choice though. You can run away to the woods and be a singleton. But no sex; no heavy petting; or indeed any flirting of any sort is allowed. Else the ‘red kiss’ or – worse – the ‘red intercourse’ fate awaits.
This is a film that rather defies conventional definition. It is like the bastard child of “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Under the Skin”. Yet it is portrayed, via extensive media advertising, as a mainstream film. It is far from it, and I fear that a lot of audiences will be bemused, shocked and disturbed in equal measure by this film.
But is it any good? The first half is a delight. A warped “Fawlty Towers-esque” vision of farcical proportions, with hotel manager Olivia Coleman (brilliant as always) viciously applying toaster-based punishment to lisping but masturbating resident John C Reilly (“Star Trek TNG”, “Chicago”). And desperate biscuit-lover Ashley Jensen (“Extras”) throws herself with comic effect at our hero, offering every sexual option possible as bait. Outstanding is Ben Whishaw (AGAIN… is October a Ben Whishaw season?) as a guy with a bit of a limp, falling for nosebleed girl (a delightful Jessica Barden from “Far from the Madding Crowd”). At last, with Ben Whishaw and John C Reilly we have a mano-a-mano fight to equal Grant vs Firth in “Bridget Jones”!
There are some laugh out loud moments in this segment: John C Reilly wants to be a parrot and Whishaw berates him – “With that lisp, you want to be one of the only animals that can speak??”.
Unfortunately, this comedy rather goes off the rails in a gratuitously over-long final section. In the same way as you never wanted to see tents again in “Three go mad camping” (aka “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1”) we spend what seems like forever locked in the woods with the singletons led by Léa Seydoux (soon to be seen with Whishaw in “Spectre”) and David’s new love interest the ’Short sighted woman” (Rachel Weisz, married to Daniel Craig soon to be seen in “Spectre”).
While this segment is enlivened by the occasional appearance of ‘ex-humans’, it is generally dull and dark enough to drive all of the comic momentum out of the film. The story eventually stutters to – for me – a rather unsatisfactory ending which is not for the squeamish. (No spoilers, but a similar ending to a 1963 Ray Milland film left me permanently scarred as a youngster).
In summary this is quite a random art house film with a clever premise that that was firmly in the FFFF category for the first half, but out-stays its welcome by about 30 minutes. I predict that – like “Under the Skin” – it will attract lovers and haters in almost equal measure. A clear winner is likely to be the Parknasilla Hotel in Sneem, County Kerry which looks a delightful place to spend a romantic weekend away. Animal lovers, particularly dog lovers, need to be warned that there are a few truly upsetting scenes in this film – one in particular that made members of the cinema audience audibly cry out in disgust. You have been warned.
Fad Rating: FFF.