The following films have next to nothing in common besides the fact that I rented them from the New York Public Library on the same day. Did you guys know you can just go to a library and get things, for FREE? Incredible. Anyways–
The Lobster (2015)
I watched this the first day I rented it because I’d been meaning to see it for awhile. I’d seen the trailer ages ago and had been half-inclined to go in theaters, but at the time I was living in North Carolina, which is not a state that screams, “Release your obscure indies here!”
Colin Farrell has an interesting and polarizing filmography, akin to Nicholas Cage or Matthew McConaughey. These men tend to end up in terrible films but still manage to win you back in their next role, because they’re genuinely very talented even when their taste in projects appears questionable. The first Farrell film I watched was In Bruges (2008), which was also my first meet-cute with the black comedy genre. I was floored by the deaths and drudgery paired so lightly with jokes and well-timed deliveries. Ever since, I’d held a soft spot for Farrell, despite the fact that I avoided most of his films in the years that followed.
In The Lobster, I felt vindicated. The entire cast (which includes Rachel Weisz, Ben Winshaw, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux) deserves praise for their work. The Lobster is a difficult film to navigate, existing in a world that not only has new roles for society and structure, but new roles for human behavior itself. In a world where marriage prized and ultimately necessary for staying alive (or remaining human), the institution has been scrubbed clean of sentiment. Love is complicated, so it has no purpose in this binary world of loners and couples. People instead marry for arbitrary characteristics they share, like near-sightedness or chronic nosebleeds. Because love has no purpose, emotion isn’t needed either and as such, many of the performances in the film feel muted and colorless. Even when Farrell finds true love with Rachel Weisz, his peak of expression still carries a sense of self-consciousness and restraint. In fact, instead of true love being their salvation, it spells danger for them both to the very last frame.
The main rule of the world, which surprisingly is not delved into very deeply, states that if you do not find a partner within a certain time frame, you must be hunted to your death or turned into the animal of your choosing. Instead of it framing the film, this dramatic Animorph-like procedure is rarely discussed. I appreciated the light touches from the director (Yorgos Lanthimos), such as the camel roaming the woods or the border collie politely introduced as a brother. Like the characters, the film hides its theatrics and swaps them for quiet actions. Even the violence, of which there is plenty, feels cold and distant. There have been few films I’ve seen where the tone, acting, cinematography, sound, and story work so well in tandem as they do in The Lobster. ✰✰✰✰✰
Star Trek Beyond (2016)
I’ve never seen any of the Star Trek original series episodes, and besides Wrath of Khan (1982), I missed the films. So it might be blasphemous to profess myself to be a Star Trek fan, but I genuinely loved the 2009 reboot. I probably watched it on DVD upwards of ten times, during the lawless era before Netflix streaming existed. I saw Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) once in theaters and found it to be a solid film, but then someone on Tumblr (always Tumblr) pointed out that Benedict Cumberbatch had taken the role of Khan from an asian actor and was a small symptom of a larger issue of whitewashing in Hollywood and I just felt kind of shitty, especially after hearing John Cho’s perspective on the matter as well.
In any case the Star Trek reboots had lost a little of their shine by the time Beyond was announced, and it became a “when I get to it” sort of movie. And then when Anton Yelchin died I avoided it longer not out of disinterest but sadness. I was sure that whenever Chekov appeared on screen my eyes would swim. Then a year later I saw it on the shelf in the library and I thought, it’s time.
Even despite my tempered expectations, I found it a little underwhelming. I love the cast, love a good adventure film (especially in space), but the whole thing left something to be desired. I supposed it’s unfair to watch a thought provoking slow-burn science fiction drama like The Lobster and immediately jump into a Star Trek reboot sequel a day after, but what are you gonna do?
Things I liked: Chris Pine doing the most,
Gamora Uhura punching dudes in the face, pretty cool monster movie makeup and prosthetics, and even the familiar characters living out their relatively simple personality quirks to the annoyance of each other (i.e. Spock and Bones – he’s incapable of detecting nuance and emotion and the other is blunt and sarcastic! Will they ever get along???) I still enjoyed it even if it makes for predictable through lines, because despite it all, it’s still a little charming. Which I guess could be said for the entirety of the film. However, I would prefer to go back and watch old episodes of the original series with an unfamiliar cast than watch another Star Trek installment with the one I already know. It’s time for Quinto to hang up his ears and for Saldana to let down her high pony. They’ve had a good run, but I need this leg of the Star Trek journey to end, before it becomes as unending as Pirates of the Carribbean, or God forbid, Saw.
And by the way, I still wasn’t ready when Anton came on screen.
The Girl on the Train (2016)
Ah, The Girl on the Train, a book I’ve seen in bookstores, airports, and cafes (though surprisingly, not yet on a train). I knew very little about this movie going in except that it was Gone Girl-esque and that Emily Blunt was the girl on the train.
In all honesty, I could have devoted more attention to this movie. I spent the majority of this film catching up on copyrighting work, jiggling my cat’s little belly, and reading scathing reviews of it on Rotten Tomatoes. But God, this is a slow, slow film. And not rewardingly slow. Punishingly slow.
Emily Blunt gives a very impressive performance and stays completely committed to her role, but it just felt misplaced in such a sluggish thriller. Also, I didn’t think it was possible to fit so many unlikable characters into a single film. Even Emily Blunt’s Rachel was only sympathetic after the discovery that most of what we’d known of her character was a lie. On top of that, the solution to the mystery was not worth the wait, the direction felt nonexistent, and there was a desperate lack of urgency.
TLDR: If I wanted to watch a powerful story about women banding together to stop the violence of men, I would just re-watch Big Little Lies on HBO.