Colossal **** / *****
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo.
Written by: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Anne Hathaway (Gloria), Jason Sudeikis (Oscar), Austin Stowell (Joel), Tim Blake Nelson (Garth), Dan Stevens (Tim).
Some ideas are just too good to screw up – and Colossal is one of those ideas. I’m not quite sure the execution of the film matches the brilliance of its concept – if it did, it may would easily be one of the best films of the year – but it comes close enough that it won’t leave you disappointed. Unless, of course, you saw the poster and expected this to be a giant monster movie like King Kong or Godzilla, full of special effects and action sequences. This movie isn’t that – it’s different, and better.
In the film, Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria – a messed up party girl/alcoholic living in New York, who has lost her job, and has been living off her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens) for a while. He has finally had enough and kicks her out. With nowhere else to go, she heads back to her small hometown, and moves into her parents place (where they are is not mentioned, but the house has no furniture in it). She reconnects with an old friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) – who owns a bar, not a good sign – and starts hanging out with him and his loser-ish friends. Oh, and if she’s on the local playground at 8:05 am every morning, a manifestation of herself as a giant kaiju monster appears in Seoul, Korean, and depending on what she does, she could end up killing hundreds or thousands of people.
The concept of the movie is a great – it’s as if your issues literally becomes a giant monster and wreaks havoc on an unsuspecting world, unless you can control them. In the hands of a filmmaker like Charlie Kaufman, Colossal is likely a masterpiece. In the hands of Nacho Vigalondo, it’s just a really good, really interesting movie that bites off more than it can chew. At first, the major issue the film seems to be about is alcoholism, and Gloria’s struggles with that. In the second half of the film, it doesn’t completely abandon that, but it does shunt it to the side when a character we previously thought was a good guy, turns out not to be – and the film becomes, at least in part, about misogyny and how the fragile male ego feeds into it, and the crap women have to deal with. On one hand, it’s a fascinating turn of events – on the other, had the film either stuck to being about addiction, or been about misogyny from the beginning it could have been a great movie about either subject – because it tries to do both, it’s merely good.
Still, even when the film is clearly biting off more than it can realistically chew, it is anchored by a strong performance by Anne Hathaway, and another good turned by SNL vet Sudeikis. I never got the hatred toward Hathaway (oh my god, she seems so fake on talk shows and at awards ceremony, the fakest things in the history of the word), because she’s always been a fine actress. Here, she’s doing something we haven’t seen from her in a while – her Gloria doesn’t have the depth of her still career best work in Jonathan Demme’s brilliant Rachel Getting Married, but she is able to make what is essentially a spoiled brat of a character into a sympathetic one. It’s also just good to see her let loose a little bit more than normal. Sudeikis is almost her equal (if he isn’t, it’s more because his role is essentially two notes – and not at the same time, as he kind of transforms on a dime). The movie puts him to good use as both a nice guy and an asshole.