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The Lobster

The Meddler

May 26, 2016

The Lobster (* ½) R

The 2015 Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize winner, The Lobster, is the kind of film for which the term pretentious was surely invented. It contains all the clichés and trappings that are always parodied whenever someone takes a swipe at art house films. Frankly, it’s the kind of thing that gives any film with a loftier goal than simply entertaining a bad name. If this is the alternative to the seemingly never-ending onslaught of sequels and comic adaptations that currently litter our multiplex screens then it’s somewhat despairing. This is a film that asks us to follow its twisty road and then cops out by opting not to give the audience any sense of closure at all (more on that later). I think priggish might be an apt word to describe The Lobster since it seems to think that it’s so vastly superior to mainstream cinema but really isn’t. If you want to talk simply in terms of cinematic superiority, I personally found Batman V Superman to be more to my liking than this one and that’s saying something.

The Lobster has a ridiculous premise right from the get go but suspension of disbelief is possible in the right director’s hands. Unfortunately, this is neither the director nor the vehicle to get that suspension of disbelief across, which is crucial for a film like this one to succeed.

Colin Farrell & Rachel Weisz in The Lobster

Here we have a film about a futuristic society wherein single people are turned into the animal of their choice if they don’t find love within forty-five days. In order for that to work one must feel some human connection to the characters, to feel their aching and longing to give and receive true love. So much attention is paid to keeping the audience in a state of perpetual befuddlement that the film is simply unable to engage on even the most primitive human level. And that’s where it failed for me.

Colin Farrell has the lead role here as a man who’s recently been left by his wife. He’s sent to a strange hotel where all single people are banished until they find love or become animals. Farrell’s character wants to become a lobster if he doesn’t find love. Eventually he leaves the safety net of the hotel and joins a group of rebels living in the woods who are, shall I say, anti relationship. Of course, that’s where he finds true love with a character listed in the credits as simply the ‘Short Sighted Woman’ (Rachel Weisz) and things take a turn for the worse.

The actors do the best they can with the material. Farrell physically transformed himself by gaining forty pounds for the role. Still, all the great actors in the world can only do so much with a film filled with such pretention. I’m sure many will disagree but I found The Lobster to be a real bottom feeder.

The Meddler (***) PG-13

It’s been awhile since a film truly showcased the sizeable talents of actress Susan Sarandon but as a testament to her acting capabilities, The Meddler should find its spot among the cream of the crop on the actress’ resume. Sarandon’s commanding performance is one of the chief reasons to see the film—albeit, not the only one. It’s also one of the main reasons why the film works so well. I can think of any number of performers of Sarandon’s ilk with whom the film would not have worked as well. It may not be a film that will be remembered come Oscar time but it’s a perfect alternative to the glut of sequels and super hero extravaganzas that come down the pike this time of year at a furious pace.

The film is ostensibly a comedy, I suppose, but underneath its surface beats the heart of a film with much higher aspirations than that. This is a film that, wrapped inside the guise of situational comedy, is also a nice exploration of grief and how people react differently when being forced to say goodbye. I liked the fact that the film was able to wrap its more serious intentions inside the laughs even if, perhaps, the film doesn’t goes as deeply as I would have liked at times.

Sarandon’s character is Marnie Minervini, a recently widowed sixtysomething, Jersey born and bred, who was left a generous sum of money by her deceased husband.

Susan Sarandon & Rose Byrne in The Meddler

Marnie has recently moved to LA to be near her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne, who’s much more preferable here than in Neighbors 2). Lori is an aspiring screenwriter who’s on the verge of getting a pilot picked up as a possible TV series but can’t seem to get her love life together. To put it another way, Lori’s personal life is currently scoring about a two while her professional life is scoring about a nine.

The problem is that Marnie can’t seem to let her daughter live her own life. Her meddling isn’t just limited to her daughter either. She seems compelled to insert herself into everyone’s life that she comes into contact with, using her money to make life easier for those unlucky souls. Everyone but Marnie can clearly see that this is most likely her way of dealing with her unresolved feelings of guilt at inheriting such a large sum of money by taking everyone under her wing as a charity case of some sort.

Marnie eventually finds a love interest in a retired police officer (the wonderful J.K. Simmons). It’s the scenes between these two that worked best for me. By the time the film reached its conclusion I wanted to see those two together. Whether that happens or not I’ll leave for you, dear viewer, to discover. Though not perfect, The Meddler is definitely worth a look.

The Lobster will begin playing at Winston-Salem’s Aperture Cinema on June 3.

The Meddler is now playing at The Regal Manor Twin in Charlotte.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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