Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Blood and Biscuits Everywhere

By the standards of "The Lobster," I should have been turned into a beagle back in April 2009.

The way things work in this foreign film that won the Jury Prize at Cannes, once they're single, a person is sent to a special hotel and has 45 days to find a mate. So if your beloved dies or dumps you, you've got about six weeks to replace them or be turned into the animal of your choice (for yet another chance to find your soulmate).

Now there's a world I'm glad I don't live in.

But as imagined by Greek director/writer Yorgos Lanthimos in this romantic science fiction black comedy full of deadpan delivery and uncomfortably funny silences (making it exquisitely un-Hollywood), I thought it made for a fascinating movie in part for its commentary on our culture's emphasis on finding "the one" and living happily ever after.

Sometimes, we discover, it's easier to settle for someone who's less "the one" and more the person willing to rub liniment on that spot on our back we can't reach.

The way this film tells it, it's not enough to be physically or sexually attracted to someone to pair up, you've got to have a shared physical characteristic like nosebleeds or bad eyes.

Apparently I should have been looking for a man with disproportionately long legs or a peach allergy all this time.

Of course, not everyone wants to find a partner, so some of the singles escape to the woods to join the loner group, where there are just as many rules about behavior as at the hotel. With the loners, you don't get to flirt or have sex with anyone, but there's a lot of dancing alone to electronic music.

You're just there to be a loner.

The movie was brilliant in several ways, showing the emptiness of a relationship in which no one is truly vested and capturing the desperation people begin to feel as they realize their "sell-by date" is rapidly approaching.

In this case, that's at the 45-day mark (unless you've shot a loner or three, in which case you get an extra day for every loner brought down, how sick is that?), but in the real world, we know it's slightly less rigid (early 30s the first time and before all traces of youth have shifted south for the middle-aged) but just as pressing.

Like my Mom, who has a habit of reminding me that she can't die because I'm not married, the hotel director teaches the newly-single that all the advantages are in being coupled up like on the Ark.

Not only is everything better if you have someone at your side, it's also safer for women to walk and for men who choke during meals.

An absurd statement like "It's no coincidence that targets are shaped like single people, not couples" reminds us that two is always better than one.

Actually, it sounds a lot like the crackpot propaganda of the post-war world that espoused wifely duties and motherhood as the highest possible aspiration for any good American woman.

The problem, as I see it, with this notion of packing the newly alone off to a singles facility to try to score in 45 days is that sometimes a person just isn't ready to move on in such a short period of time after the loss of a loved one.

That would have been me in 2009, so now I'd be seven years into being a beagle and half my life would be over and who's to say I would have met the beagle of my dreams yet anyway?

There's nothing like a date film that provides big life questions and no answers, while reminding you that it's the persistence to find what you need that matters most.

Shoot, it would have been so much easier if all I'd needed was someone to rub liniment on my back.

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