Ambiguity and Compatibility: Reinventing the Tedious RomCom

The Tao of Steve plays with the premise of the RomCom. We’re all familiar with the tedium of handsome boy meets attractive girl. Nothing remarkable happens. Girl falls in love. The end.

Dex is a lothario. He is also overweight, lazy, unambitious, uninspiring. He’s certainly not looking for love. Dex is not entirely without qualities though. Dex has an impressive array of philosophical knowledge. He has also developed a profound theory for attracting women, which he calls the Tao of Steve. The premise of which can be distilled as follows: 1) be desireless. Here he quotes the Buddah. He reflects on Steve McQueen. One of a number of Steve’s who give clepe to his theory. Steve McQueen is the archetypical. Steve Austin, Steve McGarrett. The man who is not overwhelmed by his desires. A man of purpose. Of course this is not purely a characteristic of people called Steve. James Bond is a ‘Steve,’ he propagates. He is dedicated or perhaps devoted to his cause or craft. Perhaps his craft is his cause, who knows. A woman however doesn’t come in the way of this kind of single-mindedness. The focus is always on the job at hand.

The second, 2) be excellent. Dex’s excellence derives from his capacity for quoting Kierkergaard, so we presume. An ability or resounding quality. One’s usefulness, or perhaps primary cause which ties in with point one.

Thirdly, 3) be gone. The antithesis of the hapless and needy. This is the man who is accomplished, and focused on his own life and cause. There is a certain visceral selfish quality about this however. A man who is determined by his own self-amusement. Naturally in the movie, Dex meets his match and breaks his own rules. There is allusions made to Don Giovanni: a man who seduced thousands of women because he was afraid to be loved by one. Whether he gets his woman in the end, we can’t really say. An interesting premise and take on romantic attraction. The movie ends ambiguously. Does Dex have the capacity for change? That is also left unresolved.

In ‘The Lobster’ we meet a stoic, paunchy Colin Farrell in a dystopian future for the Tinder/OkCupid generation. Filmed on the stunning West Coast of Ireland, our man has just had his wife leave him. Quite a disaster in a society where not being married carries perilous consequences. As we learn when we meet his brother who has been transformed into a dog. Our man Colin has forty-five days to meet a new love from a hotel’s pool of inmates, lest he be turned into an animal of his choosing.

David (Farrell) is stripped of his clothing, and given new ones. As he’s given a new pair of shoes, we find there’s no ‘half sizes.’ It is a swipe left or right moment. Everyone is expected to fit neatly into a box, or face the consequences.

The inmates are something of a motley crew. David befriends Mr Limp (Ben Whishaw) and Mr Lisp (John C. Reilly). As the days quickly elapse, relationships form based on perception of compatibility. All relationships and the concept of compatibility in the movie are thus defined by an impediment or handicap. A perception of mutual suffering. After being unable to meet someone with a limp, Mr Limp feigns nosebleeds to be compatible with a lady who suffers this very encumbrance. David meanwhile endeavours to attract the cruel huntress Heartless Woman. He feigns being emotionally cauterised. His bluff is destroyed when he cries after she kicks his brother to death signifying the death of compatibility. This is the end of their relationship. The end of the first act. We shift from the darkly absurdist Ballardian, Wes Anderson modus vivendi into the realms of Huxley’s Brave New World.

For, in the second, David escapes into the woods where he meets a group of loners led by Spectre heroine Lea Seydoux. In the wilderness, there is a prohibition on romantic entanglement lest they face brutal consequences. Polarisation.  Naturally, it is here David falls for the short-sighted girl played by the stunning Rachel Weisz. David hunts rabbits for her, they invent their own sign language. Their relationship however goes sour when short-sighted girl becomes no-sight girl. David looks set to walk away as their compatibility through mutual suffering ends. David however vows to blind himself in order to regain their connection. It is here the screen goes black.

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