The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

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Altair
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The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#1 Post by Altair » Wed Nov 04, 2015 6:34 pm

The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos' satire, set in an alternate world where people, if not in a relationship, are sent to a hotel where they must find a partner and if not, get turned into an animal of their choosing, promises a lot of Buñuelian fun. Alas, it doesn't deliver. The opening 45 minutes or so set in the hotel are dryly amusing, with Colin Farrell the empty vessel which constantly denies audience identification. Yet as soon as he leaves the hotel, the film goes downhill - the restrained humour virtually disappears and the surreal hotel setting abandoned in favour of a banal forest. The film from here on in feels interminable, and Lanthimos' direction, so distant and cold, leads to the talented cast (Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux) seeming to be incredibly wooden and uninteresting. A world defined by whether you're in a relationship or not sounds like a fascinating premise, but its exploration is disappointingly limited, with none of the implications worked through (perhaps because the wider world remains so deliberately opaque). In other words, a frustrating viewing experience.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2015

#2 Post by hearthesilence » Sat Nov 07, 2015 10:56 pm

Altair wrote:The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos' satire, set in an alternate world where people, if not in a relationship, are sent to a hotel where they must find a partner and if not, get turned into an animal of their choosing, promises a lot of Buñuelian fun. Alas, it doesn't deliver. The opening 45 minutes or so set in the hotel are dryly amusing, with Colin Farrell the empty vessel which constantly denies audience identification. Yet as soon as he leaves the hotel, the film goes downhill - the restrained humour virtually disappears and the surreal hotel setting abandoned in favour of a banal forest. The film from here on in feels interminable, and Lanthimos' direction, so distant and cold, leads to the talented cast (Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux) seeming to be incredibly wooden and uninteresting. A world defined by whether you're in a relationship or not sounds like a fascinating premise, but its exploration is disappointingly limited, with none of the implications worked through (perhaps because the wider world remains so deliberately opaque). In other words, a frustrating viewing experience.
Cinema-scope and Sight & Sound was very down on it too. Glenn Kenny summed up his thoughts with a response from Luis Buñuel concerning another film:

Q: Do you like Bellochio?

BUÑUEL: I've seen Fists in the Pockets—I don't find it the slightest bit interesting; it's repulsive and far too facile. It's really completely overdone—the blind mother, the retarded brother...the son putting his feet on the mother's coffin—it's too easy...While he was at it, why not show him shitting on his mother's head? It's the only thing he spared us.

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Altair
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Re: The Films of 2015

#3 Post by Altair » Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:39 am

If only The Lobster was so exuberant! At times, it's as repressed as the lead character. I'm surprised it's picked up the accolades it has (Jury Prize at Cannes, European Film Award nominations), not because it's impossible to imagine people liking it, but as it strikes me as being a very deliberately divisive film.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#4 Post by domino harvey » Sat Mar 05, 2016 9:28 am

I know most of the board hates slipcovers, but I just got this in and thought this was one of the cleverest uses of the o-ring I've seen

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#6 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Mar 16, 2016 9:38 am


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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#7 Post by domino harvey » Fri Apr 08, 2016 11:23 pm

I didn't care for Dogtooth at all, but I loved this. Lanthimos has a field day recontextualizing the usual metaphors surrounding courtship and love inside his darker than dark comedy (seriously, there will be walkouts when this hits American theaters on the animal violence alone), and I'm glad I've left the academic world behind so I don't have to sit through the next twenty years of Freshman papers on this movie. As it is, this is a mean-spirited, cruel, brutal film that still feels vaguely optimistic about love by the end.

It's a comedy, but most of the humor is of the half-smiling, "Oh, that's funny" sort, save the extended sequence mid-film concerning the courtship of the Heartless Woman, which could be excised on its own as a hilarious comedy skit about the extent to which one can lie to their partner and themselves in a relationship-- huge, guilty laughs abound during this portion of the film. Things do get a bit messier in the second half, I agree with the above, but I think the change of scenery and flipping of the dilemma stops the film from going stale and gives Lanthimos a new set of standards to skew. While Lanthimos is not afraid of landing his punches, I don't think he's doing so from the prurient stance some of his critics are decrying-- I loathe ugly films that relish their own squalor, and this isn't one of them. I think Lanthimos is tapping into real and relevant emotional defaults concerning relationships and making them alien by removing conventional affection (and conventional romantic emotions in general, for that matter) and, like many a great satirist before him, making the ordinary strange.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#8 Post by mfunk9786 » Fri May 20, 2016 10:42 pm

A film that lands somewhere on the mean side of the autism spectrum, choosing to eschew human sympathy for vile one-liners and scenarios one after another until the viewer..........decides it's to be forgiven since it's satire of some kind? Never fails to revel in the misery of other human beings in a way that plays as more despicable merely because it so often falls flat. This is like a film adaptation of that time someone on Twitter asked Bret Easton Ellis what he thought of Breaking Bad and he replied, "I wanna fuck that retarded kid." Edgy, man.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#9 Post by knives » Sat May 21, 2016 3:10 am

The autism slam seems a bit misguided.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#10 Post by Lemmy Caution » Sat May 21, 2016 6:16 am

Even if you have some miraculous ability to transform people into any animal, why bother? What's the point? But I also couldn't help wondering if the society has such an advanced, albeit weird technology, why would their matchmaking be so fundamentally basic as to be limited to a few dozen folks meeting at a hotel.
I guess you just have to accept the premise, but the transformation conceit seemed silly to me the whole time, and out of step with the meeting place.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#11 Post by mfunk9786 » Sat May 21, 2016 11:10 am

I was in no way "slamming" autism, but apologies if I offended. This movie should send you into hysterics if that seemed misguided to you, trust me. Maybe a little of it rubbed off. It just plays at a GamerGate level of unfeeling, straight ahead viciousness and I've always associated folks like that with some degree of Aspergers coupled with genuine lousiness, but I'm definitely out of my depth to goof about it too much.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#12 Post by Mr Sausage » Sat May 21, 2016 11:35 am

mfunk9786 wrote:I was in no way "slamming" autism, but apologies if I offended. This movie should send you into hysterics if that seemed misguided to you, trust me. Maybe a little of it rubbed off. It just plays at a GamerGate level of unfeeling, straight ahead viciousness and I've always associated folks like that with some degree of Aspergers coupled with genuine lousiness, but I'm definitely out of my depth to goof about it too much.
Viciousness and a lack of feeling is not characteristic of Aspergers. It's more characteristic of the so-called Dark Triad personality traits: narcissism, machiavellianism, and psychopathy.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#13 Post by warren oates » Sat May 21, 2016 11:57 am

It seems like a part of what mfunk is getting at regarding the tone of the film is more in line with the idea of "flat affect," which is a legitimate feature of Aspergers as well as other brain and mood disorders. Though I would argue that this film employs its own flat or reduced affect as a conscious distancing device to get at aspects of human nature that filmmaker clearly has some pretty deep feelings for.

It's interesting that Sausage brings up the Dark Triad, because it's precisely those traits that the Heartless Woman embodies. And the film makes it crystal clear how, even in the context of this dark dystopian world, we ought to feel about her.

I think domino nails the appeal of the film and I agree with his analysis. Though I'd say my viewing experience might have been a little different. The audience I saw The Lobster with was laughing often and had no walkouts.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#14 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sat May 21, 2016 10:52 pm

I'm still kind of gobsmacked Ellis said that.

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Big Ben
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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#15 Post by Big Ben » Sun May 22, 2016 2:23 am

As an aside as someone who is on the autism spectrum I can tell you that if you've met one person on the spectrum you've met ONE person on the spectrum. We're a diverse group of people. Many are just like so called "normal" people they're just a bit eccentric. What Mr. Sausage has described is correct by the way.

As for The Lobster I'm interested in seeing it myself as I enjoyed Lanthimos' Dogtooth. A question for those who have seen it though. Is it as...graphic as Dogtooth? Something I might watch with the family?

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#16 Post by domino harvey » Sun May 22, 2016 8:57 am

It's safe for the Manson Family maybe, but otherwise no. Graphic language, sexual content, and disturbing violence abound

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#17 Post by ianthemovie » Sun May 22, 2016 11:40 pm

For what it's worth, the middle-aged couple and their college age son (?) sitting behind me last night seemed to enjoy this, though they struck me as art-house regulars and appeared to be well aware of what they were getting into. I guess it all depends on your family! (My family would not be able to get through it based on the animal stuff alone...)

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#18 Post by colinr0380 » Tue May 24, 2016 9:12 pm

domino harvey wrote:It's safe for the Manson Family maybe, but otherwise no. Graphic language, sexual content, and disturbing violence abound
Yes, the characters do a few acts that you wouldn't want to copy, even if they only happened in front of the family dog!

Major spoilers:

I liked this a lot and it felt to me like a strange combination of 1984, Fahrenheit 451 and Godard's Weekend. I also understand the comments about the "flat affect" to Weisz's voiceover, especially in the early sections. There's a terse, dispassionate (though quite funny! I kind of thought of it as the most perfunctory type of those audio description DVD tracks that you could imagine, with the flat stating of events immediately occurring on screen, or talking over dialogue with the same dialogue!) way of speaking there that initially feels as cold as the early Hotel section, though I think the key thing here is that when we see Weisz's character in the flesh she has a more nuanced character, despite having to keep up a 1984-style conformity to the society.
SpoilerShow
Plus there's the way that the whole voiceover is eventually revealed to be an incriminating diary having its contents read out, something which seems to only strengthen the 1984 parallels.
I particularly liked that the film isn't about privileging one group over the other. This isn't about celebrating single people over couples, or vice versa. This is much more a critique of individuals being imposed upon and controlled by an intrusive society, and swapping sides isn't going to suddenly solve the core problem of the individual being trampled over for the wider good (its really a political allegory in that sense as well).

Individuals are given routines and tasks to perform until they run out their time or otherwise get captured, and in a sense they're already treated like animals. Its just that as human beings they're still a guest to be attended to, or a squad to be marshalled, whereas the animals are just a resource to be utilised without consideration. One of the best aspects of the film is that opening scene of the pony going over to its crippled companion (which is kind of paralleled in the magnificent final shot - see especially the way that it cuts out just as a couple of trucks in the background are about to meet, and pass), or the way that the whole animal transformation metaphor falls away once away from the Hotel, but the characters are suddenly surrounded by watchful animals throughout. They might not have a family connection any more, but every rabbit skinned suddenly could have once been a human being, and the fact that both sides use animals is another thing that suggests a shared callousness.

I was amused by the darkly comic Hotel section, and especially liked the way that all of the little group tasks take the form of unloving, pragmatic approaches to partnership! Its pair bonding through biological necessity (or maybe not, since children also appear to be focus group tested and paired with potential parents! It makes you wonder whether orphaned children also have a clock immediately start counting down from the death of their parents to some horrible fate! No wonder that child is so quick to helpfully suggest killing any intruder with a handy carving knife!) or for wider societal convenience than for the good of the individuals involved. You need a partner not to offer you love and companionship, but to be there for the sole purpose of performing the Heimlich manoeuvre when you choke at the dinner table! Or to act as a deterrent to rapists (i.e. all other men, who will immediately pounce on an unattended woman, but will have their inevitable urges held in check by a male escort!)!

And I liked the way that the hunt for loners kind of takes the form of a forced employee paintball weekend!

The big problem with this system is of course that practical, pragmatic matches are only fine in a world in which people have no particularly strong emotions either way about a partner! This is a world where you have to prove you are a good match, if only in the most superficial dating website way of both sharing a love of regular nosebleeds, yet you are expected to be able to move on immediately upon the end of a relationship (either a break up or a death), by immediately getting arrested and moved into dating detention centres! We see throughout the film the supporting characters getting betrayed by friends (an unacceptable pair bonding) or yearning but going unloved, all getting taken off to face their fates. And of course those who play the game too well are kind of the ultimate monsters, as they have somehow managed to make the system work for them to allow them to remain single seemingly forever! (I kind of see the "Heartless woman" here as similar to the girl played by Chiaki Kuriyama in Battle Royale who actually finds that she has an aptitude for the game and can callously dispatch her fellow classmates, because those are the newly legitimised rules which have 'self-actualised' her!)

But its not much better once with the group of loners in the woods, where it is all about punishing members for anything more than transactional contacts. In its extreme oppositional stance to the dominant monstrous society, the resistance group has become just as inhuman. Inevitably societal control is most apparent over people's sexual selves. That's the risky thing that needs to be kept under a tight leash until allowed circumscribed expression in limited, 'acceptable' ways. The paired dance scenes are key here, with the couple's dance (all dressed in identical tuxedos and flower-patterned dresses) to a Gene Pitney ballad contrasted against the loners dancing collectively but individually to their CD players, with no music leaking out! (Though I like to imagine that they're all dancing on their own to Robyn!. I kind of feel that the entire Body Talk album by Robyn could tell the story of this film!)

It's also kind of like the ending of Fahrenheit 451, except instead of becoming a repository of knowledge available to anyone who will listen, the characters here end up isolating themselves performing wild sign language-style dance movements that are only meaningful in the context of music that we never hear! Eventually the main couple even create their own language to be able to communicate together privately.

I’m not too sure that the film gets too explicitly into jealousies outside or inside relationships destroying them, although I think that it is one of the big implied themes swirling around the characters. How are people driven by their own repressed desires in their actions that repress others?

Though I also liked the way that the raid on the Hotel kind of takes the form of a blunt friend cruelly uttering home truths in order to mess up a 'happy' relationship! (“You know she never liked jazz and only learnt to play the saxophone to please you?” kind of stuff!) It is forcibly putting doubts in the heads of the smug-seeming couples and showing them how much of a sham it is. But does that really work in a pragmatic relationship where both parties kind of know about the nosebleed situation and that the ten year old daughter that suddenly turned up might not be their own? Presumably at least some of the couples have come to terms with the loveless façade and will make it work, if just out of the mutual urge for self-preservation! (And a pragmatic form of love perhaps helps to move more quickly and easily without much fuss onto another partner should something happen) But if that is the case, what is the point of the resistance breaking in and forcing them to acknowledge home truths that they already know in their hearts? Isn’t it essentially pointless and presumptuous to assume that all people need is to simply be woken up to their oppression and forced to see the truth of their situation, assuming that this is all that is needed - that people are not aware of the systems they are trapped inside and have never thought about these issues and struggled with them before submitting to the lesser of two evils, and agreeing to play the dominant society's game (for as long as they can) for a quiet life?

There's a strong sense of Godard's Weekend here in the way that Godard's film also has that split in it, starting with the mercenarily cold capitalist couple and ending with the polemic spouting cannibal radicals ("I'm sure there's some of your husband in there too" being one of the final lines to the wife, barely causing her to pause in chewing, except to compliment the chef). I wonder if this could partly be a reason for the relationship between the French au pair and resistance leader turning up in The Lobster?

I think the second half of the film is magnificent, though it needs the more mannered, claustrophobic, darkly comic hotel section to contrast against. I love the way that the visits to the city allow the main couple to 'safely play' at being a loving couple. (I really like the way that trying to force love to happen in the hotel section twists into a couple having the rare opportunity to touch each other under the guise of a 'sham' relationship!) Suddenly now that they're actually a legitimate couple, the otherwise cruel City isn't so bad! The wider society has aligned with your own feelings and suddenly there is a new life possible where there was no future before, but the characters shouldn't be deluded into thinking that society has altruistically worked in their interests, more that a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day! (And of course its also ignoring the callous cruelty at the heart of a system that currently isn't treating you badly personally)

And I love that we get some scenes of being overjoyed by all of the modern conveniences on the shelves that aren't available whilst hiding out in the woods! Seductive but soulless consumer products against brutally ascetic, yet close to nature, austerity. Either way the individual is losing some part of themselves, or at least some of their options, in being forced to make a binary choice into signing up for one mode of living or the other!

Can you quantify love? Force it when it is not there? Force it not to be there when it is? Who is benefiting from the repression? And who is just fooling themselves? Does it just come down to what you can personally live with?

But even better than both of these sections is that the film even pushes through this either/or contrast to the truly important thing - the main relationship itself. I love that moment where Weisz's character answers 'wrongly' to Farrell, laying herself bare and open to rejection from him for not being a 'perfect' partner. It contrasts against Farrell trying to please the "Heartless woman" earlier, which ends in tragedy, but here Weisz's character is accepted. Although the film pushes even beyond that to the dreadfully uncomfortable scene of Farrell's potential self-blinding to 'match' (or convert?) for his partner. Has he still not learnt his lesson about trying to please a loved one even when it will hurt him? Has Weisz's character pushed him into it, or is just passively accepting his choice? Is the final, most horrible form of coercion nothing to do with wider societal forces pushing the individual around but the sacrifices between two people in a private relationship, each reigning the other one in, or egging them on? Perhaps that's the deepest cut of all.

(In a silly, but amusing and I feel apt, aside I was casually told by a (married, with children) work colleague in passing a couple of months back out of the blue that "You should have children". Presumably its because I'm dangerously single myself! But its difficult to know what to say in that kind of situation, except to thank the person for their kind offer but graciously decline their proposal!)

EDIT (27th May): While the whole cast is full of familiar comic faces, I've been wracking my brain for the last couple of days trying to figure out where I knew the loner leader's male companion from, and eventually a trip to imdb reminded me: Michael Smiley played Tyres in Spaced!
Last edited by colinr0380 on Wed May 30, 2018 5:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#19 Post by knives » Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:17 am

Wow, the above explanation of the film is rather perfect. Though, a bit perversely I suppose, Ronald Dahl was the author this film reminded me of much more than Orwell. The humour being derived by the cruelty acceptance of social norms seems entirely within the 'evil' of the man who wrote The Twits or had a rhino eat the protagonist's parents. Contrary to some of the claims of being overly mannered or cold I found the film on the whole to be very emotionally true and far too familiar. Farrell's central issue of fitting into none of the roles this bifurcated society provides for him seems an intensely modern one and certainly a position I've contemplated far too often. One of the best scenes of this is when we see the pain the courting of the heartless woman causes. Farrell's acting as he tries to fit in with her expectation despite her delivering the ultimate blow is just fantastic. I'm surprised how anyone torn by the Grossian schizophrenia of modernity (I guess Dom is right about the lame grad school papers) couldn't sympathize with everything Lanthimos presents. The metaphor doesn't even necessarily limit itself to the way we form romantic relationships with the dichotomy reminding me of political communities and the way they react to each other in a way that ultimately hurts their long term goals; this mutual criticism is why I think the film is different from Fahrenheit 451 in a pretty fundamental fashion. Even the thing which gives the film its bittersweet optimism of possibility is different because it is a passive aspect inherent to humanity rather than something we construct. In a film that dictates for its characters to specific societal molds unconsciously having feelings, thoughts, or behaviors is a more powerful statement than any sort of intellectual aspect especially as it is open to everyone which is appropriate for such child like characters. That they are only able to move a little bit outside of the two camps also strikes me as a very honest statement. If you are raised in a culture than it is such a norm that you see the world from that even in rebellion let alone an unconscious one there's only so far a person can realistically move. Their ideas and final solution as a result is very flawed in just a way that reality permits.

The lone question I am left with is wondering why everyone doesn't just commit suicide. The film certainly opens up the conversation for such a thing and the transformation process is considered so universally distasteful that I wonder why anyone goes through with it?

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#20 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 6:00 am

(The Roald Dahl comparison is great!)

I suppose its as difficult as asking why anyone accepts an arranged marriage or going through a horrible initiation ritual rather than simply just refusing and leaving that situation (which Farrell's character does when he reaches a breaking point, but its telling it takes such a jolt of losing a family member and the prospect of no escape to force that violent attack and flight that changes the entire trajectory of his life. And then he returns to a more passive state in a new place, with a new job, but all the same problems still swirling around him). Or why Weisz's character 'passively' (meekly?) goes along with her punishment at the end, which could be interpreted as tacitly accepting the need for it, even though it permanently destroys her ability to fully function.

And then 'passes' that disability on to her loved one, as the price for them being together, or at least being able to understand each other's way of seeing the world.

Perhaps 'socialisation' has a lot to answer for!

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#21 Post by knives » Wed Jan 25, 2017 12:39 pm

Yes, I think socialization is the main culprit here breeding people lol me the heartless woman and preventing positive movement for unfit characters like Farrell and Weisz let alone whatever is going on with Reilly.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#22 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 1:06 pm

It seems to me that the John C. Reilly character, and his romance, is there to show the 'normal' person untroublingly passing through the system and easily finding a new partner. The person who shows that the system 'works'! And who then gets horribly beaten up by the nasty band of loners and his friend who has 'gone bad' during the hunt!

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#23 Post by knives » Wed Jan 25, 2017 1:50 pm

I don't agree. He obviously fails at the romance and will be turned into a parrot in two days time.

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#24 Post by colinr0380 » Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:02 pm

Whoops! Sorry about that, it has been a while since seeing the film. :)

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Re: The Lobster (Yorgos Lanthimos, 2015)

#25 Post by knives » Wed Jan 25, 2017 2:06 pm

No problem. I found that exchange the most hilarious part of the film with Farrell desperate to convince him he was a good friend and just being reasonable so it has stayed as the most memorable part.

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