"If this had been our first date, it would have also been our last," said my friend Johanna.Fair enough. You'd think that starting Memorial Day weekend with the lobster would have been a good idea, but it turned into a simply bizarre experience that felt considerably longer than its actual two hours. All either of us could say afterward was "What the hell?" There might have been a "WTF" thrown in there, too. Interestingly, however, as the days have passed, I've spent more time thinking about the lobster and trying to get to the root of its message.
If you haven't heard of The Lobster, allow me to provide a quick summary before diving in for a closer look (diving for lobster, get it?).
In The Lobster, the surprisingly versatile Colin Farrell, best known for so-so action adventure flicks before hitting a home run in In Bruges, plays David, a guy whose wife has fallen in love with someone else. Within moments of having his heart broken, we see him being escorted away by two guys dressed like waiters at a fine restaurant. They're there to take him to a Catskills-like hotel where he'll have 45 days to fall in love with one of the other guests. If it doesn't work out, he'll be turned into the animal of his choice. His brother, a dog, accompanies him. David decides he'd like to be a lobster because they live 100-years, are blue-blooded like aristocrats, and are extremely fertile.
Varying wildly between laugh-out loud absurdity and grim, disturbing and painful implications, The Lobster makes a harsh statement about the sins of being alone in our society. On his first night at the hotel, for example, David has one hand handcuffed behind his back. A reminder that we are not complete without another. Throughout his stay, scenes are performed for the guests that drive home the inherent dangers of being alone. Eating without a partner leads to choking to death. A woman walking without a man is raped.
The Lobster also comments on the differentiators that draw us to one another.
The ability to fall in love and get married may hinge on nothing more than a similar proclivity for nosebleeds, or the same physical defects, such as a limp or shortsightedness. Then there's the "survival of the fittest" aspect that comes into play with regular hunts in which the single guests are given a stun gun with which to take out the competition. For each fellow guest you put down, you're given an extra day in which to find love.
In another slap to society's face, we're rudely reminded how many of us will pretend to be someone we're not just to avoid being alone. Choosing to take up with a cruel woman, David plays the part of someone equally heartless until the illusion is shattered in one of the movie's most disturbing scenes (I won't spoil it for you in case you plan on seeing the film).
Meeting someone who's only a day away from becoming her animal of choice, we learn that, on that last day, guests are permitted to do anything they want. It is strongly suggested, however, that they don't choose a walk in the fields or having sex since those are things you can do as an animal. Yes, The Lobster is about as subtle as dropping an anvil on the head.
And did I mention that if one of the hotel's lucky new couples begins to fight or have issues they throw a child into the mix since that usually takes some of the attention away from the problem? No commentary being made there.
Now, lest the audience think that all of society believes in the necessity of love and partnerships, The Lobster introduces the loners. When David decides to flee from this dystopian nightmare, he takes off into the woods where he meets a counterculture group of individuals who refuse to play by society's rules. But rather than offering a humane, enlightened view of human relationships, the loners have equally morbid and disturbing rules of their own. Conversations with other loners are permitted, but anyone caught flirting or falling in love may have their lips slashed or tongues cut out. Seriously, this movie is not for the faint of heart.
Without giving away the ending, which frankly, I'm not entirely sure I understand, I will say that David meets someone. And that shortsightedness plays a role, both literally and figuratively.
The Lobster is one of those rare movies that I can neither recommend nor tell you to avoid at all costs. While I wasn't particularly happy to have spent the first couple hours of my Memorial Day weekend watching this absurd/painful commentary, I must say it's certainly stuck with me and that it continues to offer revelations and insights that are worth pondering. If nothing else, I would encourage you to see it so I have someone else to ponder it with me.