Drama/Comedy/Romance, 118 Minutes, 2015
Remember the pain of the last time you were dumped? That feeling of betrayal and loss? How you’d mope around the house until the police came to take you to The Hotel where, if you didn’t find a suitable mate in 45 days, you’d be turned into the animal of your choice and let loose in the woods?
If you haven’t, David (Colin Farrell [IMDB]) has. His brother, after all, went through the same thing, but was unable to connect with anybody and turned into a dog. Now, in the same position, David must find a match. If he doesn’t, he’s decided to become a lobster because, among other things, “lobsters live for over one hundred years.”
The movie is about fifty-percent insightful commentary on the more ridiculous aspects of modern relationships and about fifty-percent pants-crapping-crazy. Guests are provided with classes demonstrating how a woman walking along will be raped or a man eating alone will choke and die. They’re encouraged to remain sexually aroused, but punished severely for masturbating.
All speech is a terse, emotionless monotone. Interactions are simple and superficial. David decides that a heartless woman may be “the one” because she has an accent and short hair. He works to convince her that he’s as heartless as she is by being cruel to people. Another man knows that a woman suffering nosebleeds won’t consider him unless he suffers from them as well. Her friend has gorgeous hair and so won’t consider a man who might go bald.
Some people, of course, rebel against the system and run away from The Hotel, into the woods. There they join the “Loners” who live together, but are shunned and attacked if they fall in love with one another. To control these loners, Hotel guests are given tranquilizer rifles and taken into the woods to hunt them. Each successful capture gives the guest a few extra days at The Hotel.
Rachel Weisz [IMDB], who also doubles as narrator, is one of these loners. It’s difficult to expand on her role without spoilers, but she becomes key to seeing more of this world and how people behave within it. Both she and Farrell work within the stunted emotional framework to give wonderfully layered performances. The romance – that not based on lies and misrepresentation – is perfunctory and childlike, yet oddly moving.
Many of the ideas hit uncomfortably close to home. Changing yourself to please a partner or clinging to meaningless commonalities is something most people can identify with. Jealousy, anger and acceptance are all obvious and universal. Many of the other ideas miss, but in a way that makes it impossible to tell if they’re just plain weird or if you’ve missed an obvious metaphor.
The main themes are smartly presented and open to interpretation. Like any good high concept story, the movie will likely be followed by significant discussion. The strength of the performances easily carries the audience past the few missteps. This may just be the cure for the common rom-com.