It finally happened. After weeks and weeks of trying and two previous failed attempts at seeing The Lobster, it finally happened.
Along my March to 100, I’ve been in many different types of theaters. Twice, I’ve even been able to kick my feet up and relax in a recliner (that was the case for Green Room and The Nice Guys). Livin’ the life of luxury, and all. Not this time. This time, I found myself out of town in Charlotte, North Carolina, sitting in an old two-screen theater that didn’t even have stadium seating. Maybe “retro” is the word. But that usually implies something new that is designed to look or feel old. This was just old.
But at least I finally got to see The Lobster.
Sometimes a movie has so much buzz and such a unique concept that, as a self-professed movie lover, one just has to see it. Especially when you relate so strongly to the concept. And the more I was prevented from seeing it, the more determined I was to actually see it. I’m glad I was able to, as The Lobster is the most original take on the ordinary, everyday topic of relationships that I’ve ever seen.
The premise is that single people are taken to a hotel where they have 45 days to find a partner and fall in love. If they fail to do so in the allotted time, then they are turned into the animal of their choice. Forever. No going back.
How this process is initiated is never explained, and that is my only real gripe with the film. We’re never told if it’s voluntary or not. And, if not, when is this protocol enacted? How old do you have to be? How long do you have to be single? We don’t know. Maybe we don’t really need to from a narrative perspective but it would help to understand the mindset of the characters if we knew how (or better yet, why) they arrived at the hotel.
Besides that, The Lobster is an exercise in creative freedom that expresses what I can only imagine to be severe frustrations with modern society’s perspective on relationships. And despite that frustration, the film takes a fair, evenhanded look at how it feels to be single as well as how it feels to be in a relationship. Single people are often pitied and even looked down upon by those in relationships. It’s even considered abnormal by many for someone to be single. An example from my own life: I’m single and I’m single to the point that I’ve given up and haven’t even bothered trying in two years. I’ve accepted it’s never going to happen for me. Yet, when my new neighbors moved in a few years ago, and I introduced myself to them, their first question – even though I was standing there by myself – was, “What’s your wife’s name?” It’s just assumed that everybody has somebody and, if not, that’s something to be ashamed of and embarrassed about. Even worse, it means something is wrong with them.
That idea is explored thoroughly in The Lobster as the hotel guests are frequently condescended to and treated like inept children. But the opposite idea is explored as well: the resentment that single people often feel towards couples. While being single can be great, there is always a voice in the back of your head asking,”Why are they good enough to be loved, but I’m not?” Most people understand that that’s their base instincts talking and can put it aside. But nobody in this film is putting anything aside. Everyone says and does whatever they think without filters or conscience. The film is basically a cast of George Costanzas, doing and saying anything that comes to mind. And it’s entertaining and funny but it’s also making a point.
The message is that life makes itself. If we try to force it or resist it, we’re missing the idea. Every single character in this film does everything in their power to make life harder for themselves. And not just in the big ways. In the small ways, too (for example, if you close your eyes and try to guess an object that is handed to you, you might call that game “Guess What?”, correct? But here, it’s called something like “Hold, Guess, Think, Win”.). In every single way they can find, these characters complicate their own lives. If you stop trying to force things to happen, then you can enjoy life a little. And if you don’t resist the things that come your way, you also get to experience it. That’s the message of The Lobster.
I’m so glad I got to see this film. I was worried that I’d have to catch it on blu-ray, and this is really the type of film that needs theatrical support. It’s a brilliant and refreshingly honest take on a subject that’s been tackled thousands of times: love. And everything that comes along with it: desperation, insecurity, and whether or not any of us are truly worthy of it. No matter your viewpoint, I easily conclude that The Lobster is worthy of your time and your money.