Imagine a world much like our own, only instead of policemen asking to see your driver license, they ask for your marriage license. In the slightly skewed reality of “The Lobster,” it is strictly against the rules for single people to roam free. Instead, they are confined to a hotel, where they must fall in love with another resident before their time is up, or else be turned into an animal — an animal of their choice, I might add.
Our scapegoat into this world is the potbellied, mustachioed David (Colin Farrell), who is taken in after his wife leaves him for another man. He goes willingly and without fuss because, well, it’s just the way things go. Accompanying David on his trip is his dog, Bob, who used to be his brother, Bob. David has little luck during his stay at the hotel, other than befriending two men, one with a limp and another with a lisp — who curiously opted for parrot. It’s not until David meets up with a rogue band of loners does he locate that special someone. There might as well be a storm cloud of irony floating over David at all times.
Quirkiness is the plutonium of movies, in that it must be handled with extreme caution but can produce powerful results if harnessed correctly. Many films attempt it with eye-winking and half-smiles, constantly reminding the audience that they’re in on the joke, but not “The Lobster.” Every absurdity is packaged with a stone-faced explanation; never does the film break face. When David explains his reasons for wanting to become a lobster — lifespan, extended fertility, blue-blooded like aristocrats — the response from the other character is “excellent choice.” When the hotel puts on a play to spotlight the perks of having a companion — less chance for a man to choke on food or for a woman to be raped — the audience of bachelors claps and nods in stern agreement. The film’s commitment to its absurd logic holds the whole charade together, and is an endless wellspring of comedy.
Even the flourishes of the film are stoic in nature. Slow motion is used a handful of times for mundane acts like buying food at the grocery store. Intense, string-heavy classical music coincides with David wiping ointment on his back. In every way imaginable, the film covertly milks a laugh.
To accentuate the offbeat world are a cast of stilted, seemingly lobotomized characters who question nothing and are perpetually miserable. As the dialogue is written in a syncopated manner, always seeming to go one sentence too long, I imagine it’s difficult to deliver, but the actors meet the material halfway. Colin Farrell continues to prove his worth as an actor, imbuing the meek, robotic David with just enough humanity to make him tangible.
As pitch black as the humor is, “The Lobster” is undeniably human and houses a surprisingly touching love story. It attempts to understand the illogical nature of love by placing it in an illogical world with illogical rules. The results are, as one might guess, illogical.
3.5 out of 5 stars