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There’s a certain expectation when you think of an Anne Hathaway movie, perhaps something quirky, a little romantic, a bit of tight black leather and cat ears. You don’t, however, think of city-stomping kaiju movies, but all that is about to change.
Manifestations of a personality or trait are part and parcel of an entire genre of films, from Donnie Darko to Harvey and often deal with a person in some sort of mental or emotional imbalance. With Colossal, such is the case with a young woman who has let her life get out of control, whose psychological issues lead to devastation, in a movie that appears to be about one thing but is in fact, something else.
Gloria’s (Anne Hathaway) boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) becomes fed up with her constant partying, drinking, and general depressive attitude, dumping her and sending her out of his house. Crushed, she travels back to her hometown in a near stupor and runs across an old friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who gives her a job at his bar where his pals Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) often hang out. However, when a giant monster suddenly begins attacking Seoul, Gloria recognizes some odd characteristics between it and her and soon realizes she controls the beast. Furthermore, when Oscar finds that he controls a giant robot in the same city, things get even more complicated as the two find themselves at odds and a conflict seems inevitable.
Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, Colossal, much like The Babadook, is ostensibly about depression, though much more as the film progresses, tackling some larger issues between Gloria and Oscar. It is not a monster rampage film, despite the presence of monsters and scenes of rampage. While the expectation is that the giant kaiju will be more than it is, the movie never makes it that, instead resting most of its run time on the relationship between the leads and what the appearance of the creature and the robot actually mean. That there is a reason, and it is deeply explored, makes this a unique experience, despite Vigalondo’s history of producing particularly unconventional films.
Most of that has to with a story that shifts from sharp, albeit dark comedy, to sharp, albeit dark drama, even if the use of colossal monsters seems so far out of left field it’s an entirely different game. Gloria and Oscar meet at a local playground that is the center of the magical conduit, and the story focuses on Gloria’s heartbroken acceptance of what her grotesque avatar has done, she being wrecked by the death toll and massive destruction. The movie treats the attacks as legitimate as it can, with Seoul in utter chaos, trying to come to grips with the realization that monsters do exist, even if the film still feels purposefully small. Vigalondo does great things with his script. When you think you’ve found a gap it is, he has it filled, and cleverly so, and if you think you know where it’s going, you completely don’t.
Hathaway is great fun to watch, dressed down, frumpy, and dejected. A monster. She so effortlessly captures the tone of the film, she only need glance in one direction and we get what she is thinking. It’s a great performance. So too is Sudeikis, who continues to prove he is one of today’s most reliable and convincing leading men, taking Oscar to some surprising places. He is fast becoming one of my favorite actors.
It’s doubtful that any fan of say Pacific Rim or Godzilla are going to Colossal expecting anything close. While those films are themselves rich with symbolism, this is metaphorical on a whole other level and makes a habit of steering its audience into the unknown. While some might be disappointed by the limited exposure to the beast and the robot, the movie is never lacking for originality and is a great accomplishment, one well worth exploring in search of what it all means.
Movie description: Colossal is a 2017 action-comedy about a woman in New York City who slowly comes to realize she might be connected to giant monster attacking Seoul.
Director(s): Nacho Vigalondo
Actor(s): Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell
Genre: Comedy, Sci-Fi