December 30, 2017

What if a great-looking actor showed off his dedication to his craft by gaining a lot of weight for a role...

... but you were just watching the movie not particularly knowing who that was and wondering throughout what's the deal with his pot belly? I mean, we're watching this movie (on TV) last night, and the main character strips down to his underwear early on and we are getting closeups of his distended belly. It's an unpleasant sight. Why are they showing us this? Later, we see him walking around with that belly straining against his too-tight shirt. Much later, there he is, walking — on another long trek from the forest to the city — and I'm so mystified at the unexplained importance of this belly that I'm saying out loud: What's up with the pot belly? It's like it's a character in the movie that nobody talks about. And who is this actor anyway? Is that supposed to be Colin Farrell?

The movie came out last year. I remember that it got a good review in The New Yorker, so I'd put it on my Amazon Prime playlist, but I'd forgotten what it was I was supposed to be watching and why it was said to be good and even how good it was said to be. This morning I see that it had a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, that was indeed Colin Farrell, and he'd deliberately packed on 43 pounds to do that role:
Yeah, I ate like my life depended on it. I put on quite a pile in eight weeks. About 43 pounds.

What was the motivation behind that?

Well, he [the character in "The Lobster"] wasn’t written that way. He wasn’t written with any physical definition at all. But myself and [director] Yorgos [Lanthimos] had spoken about it and because this world was so unusual I wanted to have some physical separation from what I was used to. I’ve messed around with my body for roles, whether it was losing a load of weight or bulking up for action films. And so Yorgos and I talked about me dropping a bunch of weight and looking quite famished. But then I said, “I bet this guy was something of a comfort eater.” He’s probably not someone who ever realized that there was such a term as “let yourself go,” because there really is no consideration of the self. But he might’ve liked his grub.
Well, I had never seen a Colin Farrell movie before, but I understand he's a very nice looking man. But I don't have any particular feeling about him, and I certainly wasn't watching the movie thinking that's the famous actor Colin Farrell who was so dedicated to his craft that he discerned that a character written without "any physical definition at all" was a man who "might’ve liked his grub" and undertook the drastic (yet common) stunt of getting fat for a movie role.

I've asked this question before: If a movie calls for a fat actor, why don't they just hire a fat actor? Is it some kind of anti-fat statement, that the audience needs to know this person is not really fat? There's a great-looking guy in there. Well, I didn't know. The stunt was lost on me. I didn't have the psychological boost of "seeing" the unseen handsome guy inside the artificially pot-bellied man. I was just distracted wondering why the filmmaker insisted on all the hey-look-at-his-belly shots.

And it could have been a plot point. Because this movie was about the formation of male-female relationships based on a single corresponding trait — a "defining characteristic." Much is made of a woman who gets nose-bleeds and a man who bashes his head on things so he'll have nosebleeds and thus be able to couple with her. But our main character does not attempt to couple by matching his pot belly to some woman's pot belly. His defining characteristic is that he needs glasses — he's "short-sighted." And the woman he finds is also short-sighted* and has no discernible potbelly whatsoever.


___________________

* SPOILER ALERT: And ultimately, she is beyond short-sighted — blind — and the man must decide whether to blind himself too so he can maintain the paired defining characteristic. See? "The Lobster" is a big old claw-snapping allegory.

49 comments:

Darrell said...

He should have fallen in love with a dead woman.

rhhardin said...

I never liked Colin Farrell. He ought to have been Hugh Grant but has no sense of humor.

tim maguire said...

If she's blind, he'll be more useful to her sighted. And if she's blind, she probably won't mind that he's a lardo.

AllenS said...

Imagine Alfranken around a blind girl.

Masscon said...

He was great in In Bruges...everything else was pretty meh. Except for Alexander which was godawful!

Althouse should check out In Bruges...a fantastic film on many levels

Saint Croix said...

I think they were matched because they were both boring.

The major plot point is that there are all these singles who have not matched up with anybody. They are loners who are bad at relationships. So in the movie the people in control of this society give you a time limit, and if you don't find a mate in 30 days, this horrible thing happens to you. So you have a ticking clock scenario, and the potential for a lot of humor with disaster dates and people-under-stress. Could have been a cool movie.

The execution is horrible. It's boring, the people are boring. Hardly anybody resists or fights against the oppressive society. (Imagine Logan's Run if nobody ran!). The only character I liked was John C Reilly. I like Reilly because he's always playing himself and so he finds a truth in whatever he's doing.

Why would you cast Colin Farrell to play a nebbish? You could have cast Paul Giamatti. He'd be amazing. Or William H. Macy. Those guys can play sad sack losers and make them interesting as hell. We now know that Colin Farrell can play a sad sack loser. He just can't make him interesting.

But I actually think he's written that way. The hero is boring because the people in this society are boring. And that's why they're alone, they are boring.

I think Colin Farrell put on weight as a sort of handicap. He's playing overweight nebbish like he's Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man. That is his, or the director's, vision of why people are alone. They are pathetic people with handicapped personalities. And there's some truth to that, I suppose. But then, why is James Bond not married?

You drop James Bond into this movie, that would have been awesome.

"James, we have to get married, we only have 10 days left!"

"No, Pussy. We don't have to get married. I think I am going to find the evil autocrat who runs this society and shoot him."

"I think we should get married. My clock is ticking!"

"Yes, I know, but don't worry. I will handle it. I have a license to kill."

Way cooler movie, in my opinion.

Rob said...

What myself wants to know is why Colin Farrell thinks "myself" is preferable to "I" as the subject of a sentence. Myself is bewildered. I'm beside I.

traditionalguy said...

That offends me on behalf of blind people. Let's all riot and burn the film to affirm my feelings.

rehajm said...

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences loves the physical transformation of an actor for a role.

james james said...

In his later years Orson Welles was painstakingly preparing for the role of a lifetime.

Unfortunately he died before that movie ever came round.

Yes, I know: his role in Citizen Kane could be considered a role of a lifetime.

But this new role would've been even bigger. And fatter.

- james james

William said...

He's a gifted actor, but, as noted just above, In Bruges was the only movie that he starred rather than acted in.......Women never seem to put on or take off weight for a role. They will, if the role demands it, get a bad haircut or wear smudged make-up, but there are limits to what art can demand. When you think about it, women's bodies are far more plastic than men's and women are far more likely to have a number of different bodies as they go through life, but women actresses don't plump out for their roles. ,.....I saw The Lobster. I vaguely remember that it was an ok movie, but I can't remember anything else about it.

MayBee said...

I loved "The Lobster". I don't even remember the belly.
When I saw the bit about the belly, I thought you were going to be writing about Christian Bale in "American Hustle " or Josh Brolin in "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"

dustbunny said...

Yes it was unbearably boring, I forgot Farrell was even in it. He was very good in Minority Report however, he plays an American cop and I was surprised to find he was Irish.

donald said...

He was hilarious in True Detective which wasn’t the plan, still...

james james said...

This makes me think of Charlize Theron in the movie where she played a murderer.

She put on weight, and looked horrible.

Which won her an Oscar.

Then she promptly took off the weight and looked beautiful again. Just in time for the Academy Awards, of course.

Time will eventually take away her youthful beauty, and parts for her will dry up.

You can take off the weight, but you can't take off the years.

Meanwhile, Gary Sinese won an Oscar for his role in Forrest Gump.

Maybe the Academy thought he really cut off his legs for the role.

And then he was there at the Oscars, standing on stage.

Which just showed how far they have come with artificial limbs.

- james james

tcrosse said...

An example of a beer gut stealing a scene is Will Ferrell's in the More Cowbell sketch.

Mark said...

So, he had the body shape of a real man? Hideous, I know, but that's the way they really look.

Ann Althouse said...

"Althouse should check out In Bruges...a fantastic film on many levels."

You know, I think I may have tried to watch it, years ago. Maybe I even did watch it. If so, then I have watched a Colin Farrell movies.

I'm pretty sure "In Bruges" is emphatically not my kind of thing.

Ann Althouse said...

Just read the plot summary. No, I don't think I ever saw it. I think what I remember is feeling that I should see it, a burdensome feeling that eventually went away.

Ann Althouse said...

Maybe I would enjoy it if I encountered it by chance... without all the nudging to see it.

In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, I would go to see just about every movie that got high critical praise (unless I had a reason not to see it (such as, I never saw "Wall Street" because I disliked Michael Douglas)).

After 9/11, I did not feel that way anymore.

dreams said...

Colin Farrell was really good in the Disney movie about the making of the movie Mary Poppins "saving Mr Banks."

dreams said...

"Bruges"

Yes, that was a good movie and I liked him in that movie too.

Masscon said...

Sorry don't mean to re-burden you but if you do watch it you may be pleasantly surprised. Great performances and it is beautifully filmed, very dark, thought provoking and excruciatingly funny at the same time. Also as someone who prefers not to travel as a tourist it is a great way to see a beautiful city. Why you could almost say it's like a foockin fairy tale town!

Michael K said...

The actor that impressed me with effort to fit a part is Bradley Cooper who went on a super body building program to play Chris Kyle in "American Sniper."

He lost all the muscle the next time I saw him and he has demonstrated the usual leftist Hollywood crap, which was disappointing.

After all, they are still actors.

khematite said...

Colin Farrell may be unique in having gone both ways on this weight thing. For the 2009 film "Triage," he lost forty pounds.

rhhardin said...

One of the disappointments of seeing Don Rickles in Run Silent, Run Deep, is they didn't let him insult the captain, the executive officer or the crew. Even the cook was uncriticized.

Also it lacked CGI. The boats-at-sea water tank shots were played in slow motion to fix momentum but that couldn't correct for surface tension effects.

rhhardin said...

I remember Bruges as a comedy.

Freeman Hunt said...

The fat parts should be rewards. "Lucky you to be cast in this! You get to not only eat like a regular person, which you haven't been able to do for your entire career, but you get to overeat in the months leading up to this part!"

Freeman Hunt said...

I think I watched half of "The Lobster."

EDH said...

I mean, we're watching this movie (on TV) last night, and the main character strips down to his underwear early on and we are getting closeups of his distended belly. It's an unpleasant sight. Why are they showing us this? Later, we see him walking around with that belly straining against his too-tight shirt.

I forgot, it's okay to express revulsion about someone who's moderately overweight, as long as it's a man.

Kate said...

Farrell putting on weight because he thinks his character is a comfort eater -- terrible acting impulse. To honestly Method-act that, he'd have to gain his weight over years. The struggle to *not eat* is the key to such a character.

Renee Zellweger gained weight for Bridget Jones because Jones' weight was a key character trait and plot point. Much more honest use of body altering.

Amexpat said...

but women actresses don't plump out for their roles

Not common, but you had Rene Z get Hollywood plump, which equals a normal woman, for Bridget Jones Diary.

cronus titan said...

DeNiro gained and then lost 60 pounds in a few months to play Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull.

D'Onofrio gained 70 pounds to play his role in Full Metal Jacket.

William said...

I stand corrected. Rene Zellweger did put on some weight for Bridget Jones. So that's one. Charlize Theron wore bad teeth rather than extra pounds in order to appear unattractive and win an Oscar. She was no Robert DeNiro........Some actors are stars in certain roles and good actors in others. I saw Michelle Dockery in Godless. She was credible as a hard bitten frontier wife, but as the languid aristocrat, Lady Mary, in Downton Abbey she was the stuff of dreams.

Unknown said...

Didn't Edward James Olmos fatten up to portray Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver?

james james said...

"Charlize Theron wore bad teeth rather than extra pounds in order to appear unattractive and win an Oscar. She was no Robert DeNiro....."

From the Web:

"Charlize Theron transformed herself to play serial killer Aileen Wuornos in "Monster," and was rewarded with a Best Actress Oscar. The blond beauty was unrecognizable in the 2003 film after gaining 30 pounds eating donuts."

- james james

William said...

Thirty pounds overweight makes you a normal American, not a fat American. It's the bad teeth that made her convincing. You rarely see female movie stars with bad teeth.

William said...

Charlize Theron with an extra 30 lbs and bad teeth is still doable. Her role was like a humble brag.

Phil 3:14 said...

I find this weight change for a role example very impressive.

(Do you think is was pharmaceutically supported.)

rhhardin said...

So far I haven't found Charlzie Theron memorable.

I mean the films may be good but I didn't notice anything other than a generic her.

(according to my stuff-I-already-have log she's in 15 minutes, atomic blonde, devil's advocate, fate of the furious, sweet november, that thing that you do, the italian job, the road, the yards, trapped).

I notice Meg Ryan, Anne Hathaway, Jennifer Aniston, Emily Blunt, owing to some character I particularly liked rather than from the acting.

There's no such thing as hot.

rhhardin said...

The Anne Hathaway character was from Get Smart (2008).

rhhardin said...

Oh and Sandra Bullock (Two Week's Notice)

Birches said...

I liked The Lobster. I thought he was fat so he would be more awkward.

Christy said...

I first noticed Farrell in Ballykissangel, a lovely Irish series made at the end of the last millennium. Lost interest with the phone booth movie.

Carter Wood said...

DeNiro gained his weight first before filming Raging Bull to play the late Jake La Motta, losing it to play the boxing La Motta of the '50s. It seems like a reasonable acting decision: He had to depict essentially two different people.

But boy, he was obsessive (at least according to this Vanity Fair account).

Bad Lieutenant said...


There's no such thing as hot.


We already know that you are a soulless dead man inside, RH, but ... Bond girls? Luciana Paluzzi? Lea Seydoux? Eva Green? Jane Seymour, Diana Rigg, Ursula Andress?
No? Not hot?
Shrug...more for me. Stick to dogs. No alimony.

jaed said...

Renee Zellweger gained weight for Bridget Jones because Jones' weight was a key character trait and plot point.

That was something they came up with for the movie. In the book Bridget Jones, the key character trait was that she was neurotic about her weight, not that she was fat. She specifies her weight of the day umpteen times, and it's always between 119 and 126 pounds. The joke is that she's not fat at all, but she can't stop obsessing about it.

I personally think that's a lot funnier—and also more touching—than the "Ooh, look, she's fat hurr hurr!" they went with for the movie.

The Godfather said...

1. Thanks for informing us about this movie. I will be sure to miss it. (If it's based on a novel, I might try that.)

2. It seems obvious that Colin Farrell (or someone advising him) realized that he was going to need help to persuade the audience that he was desparate to attract a mate -- he's an attractive guy, maybe not Colin Firth, but attractive. I don't know anything about his private life, but I doubt he has to limit himself to blind girls.

3. Like @Christy, I remember Farrell in "Ballykissangel", which I thought was great in its first couple of seasons, but then they kept writing characters out of the series and bringing in new ones, and that's a real problem with many of the British series. Apparently in Britain the producers sign the actors up for only 2 or 3 seasons, and if a key character wants to leave after that, the writers have to create a new character and change to story accordingly.

Zach said...

Colin Farrell always seemed like he should have been a much bigger star. Very good in Minority Report, then he had star vehicles in Daredevil, S.W.A.T., and Alexander in the next couple of years. Unfortunately, the star vehicles were both critical and commercial flops, and it never happened. In Bruges is very good, and some people like Miami Vice, but they're not the kind of movies that put an actor on the map.

Interesting question: if Farrell didn't gain the weight, how would you visually portray him as a sad sack who's desperate to find a mate? Movies are a visual medium, and nobody's going to buy the matinee idol as someone who can't get a date.