The Lobster Review: Hopelessly Unromantic

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The Lobster is a dystopian comedy about a society that puts its full emphasis on coupling. Single people are put in a hotel for 45 days. After the 45 days are up, if they haven’t met a match, they’ll be turned into an animal of their choosing. The rules as they’re initially laid out are rigid, with the satirically stoic populous of the film barely trying to make them buckle. The whole first act sort of plays like if Wes Anderson directed Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. That is to say it’s hilarious, bizarre, and oddly strong at world-building.

We follow David (Colin Ferrell) as he moves into the hotel after his wife cheated on him and left him. He wears glasses because he’s, ironically, near-sighted, which is also what his ideal match would be. Make no mistake, there’s no actual romance in The Lobster. Its characters are hardly characters at all, but moving parts of its cutting satire of love and the culture of dating. The simplistic manner of the coupling feels almost like an old-fashioned arranged marriage. But then, there’s also a more modern commentary on the instant gratification form of dating apps like Tinder provide. The film succeeds in pointing out the hypocrisy of a generation swiping yes or no based on a singular photo that also claims to be progressive. It’s The Lobster greatest trick. But, like a lot of satire, the film is a bit of a one trick pony.

Once writer-director Yorgos Lanthimos takes us out of the hotel, things grind to a halt. This world’s rules outside of the rules of the hotel rip anything human out from what initially made us connect to this world. The point of The Lobster ends up being that there’s no winning in love. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s a hopelessly cynical notion that makes the film feel like a work of art made in the relentless self-deprecating period after a bad breakup. The problem with that is that the human condition eventually resolves itself and time makes things not seem that bad. That’s not to say this specific period of human emotion isn’t worth exploring, but it also should be acknowledged for what its is, which is temporary. The rules of The Lobster aren’t temporary and don’t adjust themselves for the way we as humans do. As clever as it is in spots, that missing piece of the human puzzle ultimately makes the film, though admirable, a failure. Grade: C+

By Matt Dougherty

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