-An absurdist comedy masterpiece that sings a stinging indictment on our marriage culture and another quirky indie delight revolving around a Greta Gerwig indecision.
I try not to say this too often, just in case I end up going back on it, but The Lobster is a masterpiece. Blending the sharpest brand of satirical humor with the blackest of absurd social commentary, this film finds a perfect balance between silly and disturbed, romantic and off-putting.
It takes place in a futuristic society, which we only see a small section of: a large city, tons of wooded forest area, and a large-scale resort-style hotel where the brunt of the action takes place. In this society, love trumps all, and unless you’ve found a mate, you can’t literally be human: no, literally.
You can happily live in the city with your partner or suffer the punishment, there will be no “loners,” that is punishable with death.
Our story begins with a lonely man named David (Colin Farrell) checking into the resort, as his now-former wife has left him, and he comes occupied with his dog, who was formally his brother before failing the resort’s test before his time (45 days) ran out. Once there, he makes a few friends (Ben Whishaw and John C. Reilly), and has some trials and tribulations with women in the hotel (Ashley Jensen and Angeliki Papoulia). As time winds down, he’s forced to make a selection of what animal he would like to become, and he chooses a lobster. The film focuses on his stay at the hotel and whether or not he can kind anyone. The other two main actors in the film are Lea Seydoux and Rachel Weisz, who come along later. To reveal their role would be to spoil the film.
There’s very little analysis that can occur without revealing the film’s contents, but it’s safe to say that this is the best black comedy in years. Its absurdist nature helps craft a very unique and special tone that carries us through some of the more disturbing parts. I consistently laughed throughout this and its takedown of date/marriage culture in our society. Every character needs a common characteristic in order to have a relationship, and it perfectly articulates the pressure that people feel to find a mate. If you don’t, well you’re not really human. This can also be a shot at how the government encourages the nuclear family and gives exemptions to those with kids. It’s satirical, dead-beat, and very funny.
The Lobster is the best of 2016 thus far.
The Lobster (2016)
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos (Dogtooth, Alps, Kinetta)
Starring: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, Ben Whishaw, and John C. Reilly
with: Ashley Jensen, Angeliki Papoulia, Ariane Laped, and Olivia Colman
RT Score: 90%
Greta Gerwig has carved herself out a niche in indie romantic comedies. Her manic state of constant confusion has given her plenty of fans, praising her as an indie critical darling, and Maggie’s Plan adds to that assertion. With the always reliable Ethan Hawke at her side, it has to be good.
And, it is…for the most part. Indie films in recent years have gotten a little bit lazy with larger film elements such as pacing. Maggie’s Plan feels like it could be structured a more taut manner and maybe given just a little bit more humor to latch onto.
Gerwig is Maggie, a single woman now ready to try artificial insemination to have a baby, but avoid the strings of marriage. She’s doing it with a Pickle Salesman named Guy (Travis Fimmel) who has an affinity for math. When she falls for the adjunct professor at her New School college that she works at (Ethan Hawke), those plans go by the wayside in interest in her real love and eventual plan for kids with Hawke. The problem? Hawke is married to the self-indulgent Georgette (Julianne Moore), a tenured Colombia professor whose marriage to Hawke’s John is falling apart.
Fast forward three years, and Maggie is with John and they have kids, and a friendly relationship with Georgette. The film tackles the question…what happens when the after-affair relationship should’ve stayed in the affair stage? Maggie decides, now fed up with John, to reunite him back with Georgette and tie the plot in a neat little bow, manipulating destiny.
Gerwig’s characters are always intellectuals that are drowned in their own clumsiness and self-indulgence. Here, she feels that she is the kind of person able to manipulate the world around her, but can often appear ditsy to those around her. As our liking for Hawke’s John decreases, we start to agree with her about the reunion.
The problem is that the plot sounds great on paper, but the execution leaves a little bit to be desired, as the film never reaches the necessary level of comedy to support such an outlandish plot, and because I’m not a huge supporter of the Noah Baumbach, chaotic indie movement, this film doesn’t really appeal to me on the surface. It fits in with his filmography, and I found it to be a little slow at times, wasting the actors in a contrived series of ideas. The ending, however, is good, and despite Moore giving a bottom of her career performance, her character may win you over.
The shining star of this is actually Travis Fimmel, who plays the lonely pickle man with a sorrow that cuts deeper than the characters we actually understand. It’d be fine if he were in it more…much more.
Maggie’s Plan (2016)
Director: Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee)
Starring: Greta Gerwig, Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Bill Hader, Maya Rudolph, and Travis Fimmel
RT Score: 83%