'The Lobster': A Rom-Com With Satirical Claws The Lobster is a comedy in which single people are given 45 days to fall in love before being turned into an animal of their choice.
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'The Lobster': A Rom-Com With Satirical Claws

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'The Lobster': A Rom-Com With Satirical Claws

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'The Lobster': A Rom-Com With Satirical Claws

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Dating is plenty complicated, but suppose romance came with deadlines and a penalty for not meeting them. That's the dilemma Colin Farrell faces in his new film, "The Lobster." NPR critic Bob Mondello says it's a comedy with an absurdist twist.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: David is a nebbishy guy whose wife has just left him. He lives in a slightly futuristic society that really values coupledom. So as soon as it becomes clear that he's single, the authorities pack him off to the hotel where the check-in is a little unusual.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Have you ever been on your own before?

COLIN FARRELL: (As David) No, never.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Your last relationship lasted how many years?

FARRELL: (As David) Around 12.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) Sexual preference?

FARRELL: (As David) Women. Is there a bisexual option available?

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #1: (As character) No, sir. This option is no longer available.

MONDELLO: When David gets to his room, the manager explains how his stay is going to work.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

OLIVIA COLMAN: (As hotel manager) Did you read the leaflet?

FARRELL: (As David) Yes, I did.

COLMAN: (As hotel manager) Very good. Now the fact that you'll turn into an animal if you fail to fall in love with someone during your stay here is not something that should upset you.

MONDELLO: Got that?

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

COLMAN: (As hotel manager) Just think - as an animal, you'll have a second chance to find a companion. But even then, you must be careful. You need to choose a companion that is a similar type of animal to you. A wolf and penguin could never live together, nor could a camel and a hippopotamus. That would be absurd.

MONDELLO: Well, yes. David's nodding at all this and occasionally looking at the dog that used to be his brother.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

COLMAN: (As hotel manager) Now, have you thought of what animal you'd like to be if you end up alone?

FARRELL: (As David) Yes, a lobster.

COLMAN: (As hotel manager) Why a lobster?

FARRELL: (As David) Because lobsters live for over 100 years, they're blue-blooded like aristocrats and stay fertile all their lives.

COLMAN: (As hotel manager) I must congratulate you. The first thing most people think of is a dog, which is why the world is full of dogs. Very few people choose an unusual animal, which is why they're endangered. A lobster is an excellent choice.

MONDELLO: So now he's got 45 days to pair up with someone. Everyone in the place assumes that compatibility means like with like. A guy with a lisp looks for a gal with a speech impediment. All is with the knowledge that things may not work out.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

JOHN C. REILLY: (As lisping man) I want to be a parrot if I don't make it. Why don't you become parrots, too? And then we'll all be together.

BEN WHISHAW: (As limping man) You're a complete idiot - picking one of the few animals that can talk when you have a speech impediment. You'll lisp even as an animal.

MONDELLO: David discovers there is an alternative of sorts. In the woods surrounding the hotel are a lot of animals - camels, Shetland ponies, flamingos - but also a bunch of escaped loners who prize lonerness (ph) as strongly as the rest of society prizes coupledom, which sounds fine.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character) You can be a loner as long as you like. There is no time limit.

MONDELLO: Except there are still rules.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "THE LOBSTER")

UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS #2: (As character) Any romantic or sexual relations are punished.

MONDELLO: Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos is fond of hermetically sealed satires like this, where the logic is rigidly internal and the results of following that logic, decidedly strange. "The Lobster" is his first film in English and plays cleverly with the compatibility assumptions behind, say, singles groups and online dating sites to know how he feels about the idea that opposites attract. But perhaps it's reflected in the opposite first and second halves he's given the movie. The early-going is comic and light, then Colin Farrell's David escapes into the woods, encounters soul mate Rachel Weisz, and there's a tonal shift to serious darkness. Arguably, that's less rewarding. But if weird is what you're looking for, "The Lobster" is, claws down, the romantic comedy for you, though possibly not one you'd want to choose for a first date. I'm Bob Mondello.

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