Are you better off as a lobster or dancing alone to techno? Those are, in director Yorgos Lanthimos' satirical take on relationships, your choices. In the film, lonely people are sent to a hotel where they have 45 days to fall in love or else be turned into an animal. It is a marvellously wacky premise and one that few filmmakers would even conceive of. Lanthimos is bright and ambitious and perhaps a bit twisted, but it's all to our benefit. Lanthimos clearly thinks that societal pressure to be in a relationship is to be ignored. He also thinks, (although it seems like a bit of a straw man, to be fair) that those pushing too strongly for celibacy are misguided. For Lanthimos, excessive pressure to be in relationships puts one under pressure, in which situation you will probably make a mistake or change yourself for someone else. The scenes in the hotel, in which the absurdity of the premise is most evident, are the funniest. Hotel residents must attend dances where muzak versions of '80s standards rule the day. Residents listen to motivational segments about the difference sex can make in a relationship. These are the lightest funny parts of the film. There are other darkly funny parts of the movie and they occur later when some of the residents break out and try to establish relationships in a very individualistic environment in which the leader makes blind one member who tries to embark on a relationship with another. Given the cynicism of the movie, it actually ends on a more hopeful note, leaving open the possibility of happiness for two escaped residents of the hotel.
The movie is well-acted and directed. Colin Farrell is fantastic playing a schlumpy, depressed nobody. Lea Seydoux is fantastic as an individualist who takes it upon herself to lead other escapees of the hotel, perhaps taking the individualism a little too far. Rachel Weisz is good as another escapee from the hotel who falls in love. Across the board there are great performances and I have to believe that this film brings to life Lanthimos' vision. It is such a unique film it's hard to see how different choices might have improved it. It isn't a film that exists on the spectrum of "good/bad". It's more a film that you either like or don't like. It's a unique, and for me, very enjoyable film.