Combustible Celluloid
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With: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Lea Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman, Ben Whishaw, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, Ashley Jensen, Michael Smiley, Jessica Barden
Written by: Yorgos Lanthimos, Efthymis Filippou
Directed by: Yorgos Lanthimos
MPAA Rating: R for sexual content including dialogue, and some violence
Language: English, French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 118
Date: 05/13/2016

The Lobster (2016)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Shellfish Behavior

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos may have positioned himself among the world's great, provocative "maverick" filmmakers with this bizarre, off-putting, yet fascinating dystopian nightmare for grownups. Against all odds, Lanthimos actually received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film for his Dogtooth (2009), and now ventures into English and Hollywood stars — more like playthings here than performers — with The Lobster.

In a weird, dystopian future, single people are allowed only 45 days to find a suitable life mate. If the search ends in failure, people are turned into animals. An architect's wife leaves him for another man, and the architect, David (Colin Farrell), is forced to check into a sinister "hotel" where his progress in finding a new partner is monitored. He meets some other men (John C. Reilly and Ben Whishaw) and makes an attempt to partner up with a chilly, unfeeling woman (Angeliki Papoulia) before escaping into the woods. There, he finds the Loners. Their fierce leader (Léa Seydoux) takes him in, under the condition that there is no flirting or coupling with any other loners. Trouble arises when he finds his perfect match (Rachel Weisz).

The director's palette is bleak, his pace is slow, and the characters all speak in an unsettlingly measured, robotic tone, as if afraid to accidentally express any genuine emotions. Sudden bursts of sex and violence, beginning with the startling opening shot, and a clinical acceptance of disturbing imagery indicate a kind of brutal fearlessness in Lanthimos. But unlike some of his other mavericks (Michael Haneke or Catherine Breillat, for example), he seems to have a dark, brittle sense of humor; it's possible to view this movie as a pitch-black comedy.

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