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NYFF: The wonderful absurdities of "The Lobster"

About five disorienting minutes into The Lobster, all pretense of disorientation for disorientation's sake is stripped flatly away as the headmistress of the hotel (a terrific Olivia Colman) where Colin Farrell's character has found himself lays out the movie's premise. And oh how small the word "premise" seems in relation to what The Lobster has up its sleeve: Singletons will be turned into an animal (meaning a literal non-human creature) if they cannot find a mate in an ordained amount of time! 

It's a moment as surprising as it is funny (her notion of what is and what isn't absurd is the definition of absurd itself). While director Yorgos Lanthimos' previous films Dogtooth and Alps both reveled in their inscrutable rules, forcing the audience to pick up the fragments of what's offered and chase behind the film, trying to cram them together, everybody in The Lobster instead can't stop telling us exactly how this insane world works ("Didn't you read the guidebook?" is asked multiple times), and the more they lay it out the funnier and funnier it all gets.

And The Lobster is a very very funny film, seemingly finding all new ways to be funny that have never been found funny before - I wouldn't want to spoil its dark surprises but let's just say some of its punchlines got several audience members at my screening up on their feet and right out the door with madcap quickness. 

But for all of its laugh-out-loud cynicism about the way our own world works, refracted through the not-so-fun-house mirrors of how its own world works, Lanthimos' film has a heart, maybe black but beating hard, under its strange shape. He manages to make the old-fashioned obstacles of another sad love story hum with newness, scraping the gunk off romance and holding this bright shiny new thing high and proud. It's a marvel, like nothing else, singular from every single stupefying angle.

Alchemy will distribute The Lobster in the US. No date has been announced. For previous posts on the Lobster click here. Follow Jason on Twitter and read his blog MNPP

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Reader Comments (13)

I can't believe I missed this one. I just wasn't at all prepared for what this month wrought immediately post TIFF.

October 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Jason, thank you for this entertaining piece. This is one of my most anticipated titles of the year. How great of a resurgence is Colin Farrell having. Along with Matthew McConaughey and Luke Wilson, he is finally showing us some amazing chops. Good on him.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

brookesboy - i love him so much. he continually gets better and he obviously cares about being a great actor... from even the time when he wasn't quite getting there.

October 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

There's going to be a bloodbath when I try to decide between this and Carol as my favorite movie of the year (unless something knocks me out over the next couple of months - always possible!) but knowing me and my need to root for the weirdo underdog I honestly can't imagine this movie not climbing up on Rooney Mara's delicate shoulders and declaring victory

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJason

My reaction was a shrug with a up-toned "yeah, it's good". I'm not going to find myself thinking about it much at all since seeing it on Tuesday. I liked the actors. I dunno. I just didn't get much from it. But I wasn't a fan of Dogtooth all that much, either. I'm just not on this Greek weird wave's frequency.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

Does The Lobster feel different from his previous outings due to the characters speaking English?

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

Olivia Colman is my favorite in The Lobster... that little dance she does... fantastic. I loved the part in the hotel, the rest is redeemed a bit by Seydoux but boy oh boy I wanted to bolt out the last 15 mins or so, it was unbearable.

However like Glenn said I still think about it days later more than other movies I loved.

October 2, 2015 | Registered CommenterMurtada Elfadl

Loved this - a great, absurdist black comedy with a *very* British feel (though it's also completely consistent with Lanthimos' Greek films). It reminded me of Lindsay Anderson movies like O Lucky Man! and Britania Hospital. Terry Gilliam, Kubrick and Alex Cox, too, but Anderson most of all.

And Colin Farrell has never been better, IMO.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

"And Colin Farrell has never been better, IMO."

I keep thinking of the scene where they go to the city for the first time and Colin has that monologue that he's supposed to be making up on the spot about his marriage -- it feels so impromptu and his timing - his timing! Just impeccable, the way it teases out the joke of the moment.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJason

I saw it on Monday and I'm still thinking about Ben Whishaw's performance, particularly his little monologue about how he got his limp. He's always good but he just seemed to understand this film's particular weirdness so well.

What a sweet, strange, violent, funny movie.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAmes

Jason - that's one of my favorite moments! I keep thinking of his pantomime conversations, and how you can see him thinking through each gesture at first, getting more comfortable/fluent with them as time goes on. Such a richly detailed performance, and given how stylized the material is, it's remarkable how fully in the moment his choices feel.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

Such a great cast - I was on board with that alone, nice to hear that Colin Farrell is good in this.
I look forward to seeing it.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

/3rtful, the performances don't feel quite as stylized, that's for sure. However, certain actors are clearly trying for a style, which is probably why I preferred Weisz since she's more open and fluid in terms of her vocal delivery.

October 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

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