The Lobster movie full length review - A gifted cast wasted on a tedious exercise in pseudointellectual cinematic self-indulgence
"The Lobster" has a stellar cast of talented actors and a refreshing lack of jiggly-cam shots. The shots are carefully composed, even when there isn't much of interest on the screen.
Some reviewers consider the film a brilliant absurdist parody. I do not share their enthusiasm. Guy Lodge at Variety loved the film and gave it a glowing review. I'm sure he knows a lot more about the theory of film than I do. I'm just a guy who doesn't know much about Dramatica theory or monomyths, but I know what I like.
I found the film slow paced, tedious, overly long, hopelessly contrived, vapid, self-indulgent and decidedly not funny, amusing, compelling or thought-provoking. The characters are so aggressively uninteresting to each other and to the audience, so apathetic and so disinclined to any sort of sexual pursuit beyond masturbation, that one is amazed the society doesn't simply die out and by the end of the film, one wishes the characters would hurry up and do so.
The filmmakers seem to have the notion that if they simply multiply everything by negative one, reverse polarities and turn everything black to white and vice versa, that they will have a cohesive dystopian society. What we get instead is a group of characters without motives.
They have motives in close-up in their daily decisions, which usually default to doing nothing differently from the day before. David has a cohesive rationale for wanting to become a lobster if he doesn't find a soul mate, but seems disinclined to apply those same motives to his life as a human.
But nothing makes sense in the grander scheme. In dystopian films, usually the dysfunctional society is thrust upon the citizens through war, famine, pestilence, invasive vampires or some other external force. Often it is a consequence of a totalitarian government run amok, as in "Fahrenheit 451," "1984" or "The Hunger Games." But the government has some sort of rationale for what they do, which usually involves perpetuating their rule. In "Bananas," when Woody Allen's character assumed power in San Marcos and declared that henceforth the national language of the Latin American nation would be Swedish, it was absurd in a funny way. Here, the absurdity is created for the sake of absurdity and seems contrived.
If one take the time to deconstruct the film, as Lodge did, and wonder why the characters are so obsessed with finding partners who share some inconsequential physical flaw and decide that the filmmakers are parodying our tendency to seek out and identify with people who share some inconsequential interest, ability or flaw, and if you agree with the filmmakers that this is one of our defining traits, it may seem brilliantly insightful. But audience members who don't happen to share the filmmakers' cynical insights may be less enthused.
In "Defiance," a group of Jews found refuge in the forest and soon built an elaborate, if rustic, habitation. Here a group takes refuge in the woods and never builds anything beyond digging their own graves. The actions of the ophthalmologic surgeon in contravention of the Hippocratic Oath are incomprehensible. One character is described as having absolutely no feelings, but demonstrates suspicion, anger, rage and self-congratulation. The manner in which close friends affirmed, repudiated or betrayed their friendships had little rhyme, reason or consistency.
The plot device of changing people into animals is taken quite seriously by the characters. Apparently it is such a simple procedure that anybody can do it, even without training and even out in the forest without any laboratory equipment. And yet we never see it. I fully expected it to be either a big lie, as in "Logan's Run," or a hideous reality, as in "Tusk." Instead, it was frequently referenced, but never really brought into play.
In the end, I'm not at all certain what the filmmakers wanted to say. Given a group of unbelievable and largely unsympathetic characters existing in an unbelievable dystopian society who engage in actions without any credible motives, it's not clear what lesson we are expected to learn about our own lives.
The film offers a few cringe-worthy moments, but no laughs and no brilliant insights into human nature, society or courtship. It features a cast of talented, versatile and wonderfully expressive actors doing their best to display no emotion.