The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos (2015)

The Lobster, very much like Her and also like Under the Skin, takes place in a future that looks almost exactly like now but a little different; in particular, facial expressions seem to have been outlawed. Everyone displays a lack of affect you’d call shocking if it weren’t for the fact that nothing’s shocking in this place. People react to extraordinary violence and soft boiled eggs with equal indifference. If someone does happen to feel something, the emotions erupt in bizarre and sloppy ways, like geysers or toddlers. The premise is that in this near future, everyone must either be coupled with someone much like themselves; or be consigned to a life of utter independence, caring for and cared for by no one; or be transformed into an animal. Pretty Procrustean! The movie is stylish and very much of its moment in that it dramatizes the contemporary young person’s affliction of feeling vaguely nostalgic about emotions but too jaded or fearful or I don’t know what to actually have them.

I’m going to hope someone else has the time and patience to thoroughly pick apart the gender and sexual politics here. The movie at one point realizes it is severely heteronormative and tries to make a little joke to try to excuse itself; the effort is transparent and ineffective. Meanwhile, as to gender, all the women are either bitchy and icy or nurturing types who sacrifice everything of their own for the sake of their men. (Again, compare to HerYou can even compare sad Colin Farrell above to sad Joaquin Phoenix on the Her poster. They’re the same character.) The men are uniformly hapless, either pushed around or coddled. It’s all highly regressive, but I fear the college kids will only see the cool and quirky surface and not the sexist same-old same-old underneath. They even fooled the brilliant Rachel Weisz, who’s usually so smart about her choices. (It’s time to forgive her for The Mummy; that was ages ago.)

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