“The Lobster” starts off so strong that for about half of its running time, I thought that it would turn out to be my first big highlight of this years Viennale. Unfortunately, I didn’t much care for the direction that the movie took in its second half. It’s still a good movie with a great, funny and original premise, but I wish that they would have stuck with the plot in the “hotel”.
—————— SLIGHT SPOILERS AHEAD ——————
What I loved first and foremost about “The Lobster”, is its initial premise: The movie takes place in some sort of near future, or in a parallel world, where singles are sent to a hotel, where they then have 45 days to find a new match – otherwise they get turned into an animal of their choosing. What a fascinating, original and bizarre idea! The first half, which takes place in one of these hotels, is full of funny moments and great scenes. However, it’s not just all laughs… there are also some quite interesting observations about love, couples, and the emphasis that our society puts on romantic relationships. Did you ever notice that in movies and tv-shows, singles are the first to be sent into danger, as if their life somehow would be worth less? “The Lobster” makes some similar observations, which I found very interesting. I also loved some of the absurdities that take place in the hotel just so that you find a new partner and thus avoid being turned into an animal. The whole setup is completely absurd, and at first, the film is full of – often times rather dark – humor. As far as the first half of the movie is concerned, which offered a great (although obviously completely exaggerated) parable on our society, and the pressure of finding a romantic partner, I loved pretty much every second of it – even though being single myself, I occasionally found it to be a little depressing (in a good way, though).
Unfortunately, when David escapes from the hotel and meets the resistance, “The Lobster” starts to stumble. First of all, instead of presenting a positive alternative, David jumps out of the frying pan into the fire. He simply switches one totalitarian, repressive system for a different – and diametrically opposite – one, because where in the hotel (and thus as part of society, as it is depicted here), he had to find a romantic partner in order to stay human, here all romantic relationships are strictly forbidden. And as much as I could appreciate the idea concerning the hotel, and the pressure of society to find another partner, this later part didn’t work for me at all. It’s just a dumb idea, and one has to ask yourself why those people put up with that (while the other system is very institutionalized, thus it would be harder to oppose). Additionally, the way that “Loner Leader” (as she is credited on IMDB, even though I’m pretty sure we heard her name in the movie, but I don’t recall, sorry) ultimately learns of Davids affair felt incredibly forced and stupid (and was also very predictable). Finally, I didn’t care much about the open end. Sometimes, a movie can profit from something like that, but here, it felt to me as Yorgos Lanthimos didn’t want to alienate anyone – thus, just not providing an answer felt rather cowardly to me. Also, the longer the movie went along, the more noticeable it was to me how repetitive the music was. Another reason why a shorter running time would have been preferrable.
Overall, “The Lobster” seems like a weird combination of two movies, that never quite make a match. I loved everything about the hotel, but found most of the stuff in the woods unconvincing. Occasionally, the second half still managed to grip and excite me – like when they go on their mission – but even then it doesn’t even come close to the great setup and beginning. Which, given how much I loved pretty much everything about the first hour or so, is a crying shame.