Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Writer: Nacho Vigalondo
Producer: Nacho Vigalondo, Russell Levine, Nahikari Ipina, Zev Foreman, Dominic Rustam
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson
A young woman struggling to straighten her life discovers she can control a giant monster on the other side of the world.
Gloria’s life is in a downward spiral. She has been out of work for a year. Her flighty friends enable her heavy-drinking socialite style. And her boyfriend Tim has had it up to here with Gloria’s passive irresponsibility, taking the liberty of packing her things and kicking the girl to the curb of their New York apartment.
There is one thing Gloria has control over however, and that’s a giant monster across the world in Seoul, South Korea. More on that in a moment.
Low on options for next moves, Gloria retreats to her tiny hometown and turns a vacant family rental into a makeshift residence furnished like a poor freshman’s dorm. In town, Gloria bumps into old acquaintance Oscar and learns her childhood classmate now owns the local bar. Bad habits die hard, so Gloria picks up where she left off, unambitiously occupying her days as Oscar’s waitress while spending nights in drunken conversation with her new boss and his two average pals.
Things become less ordinary when Gloria wakes from a hangover haze to learn that a Godzilla-like creature inexplicably appeared overseas, toppled a few buildings, and dematerialized as suddenly as it arrived. It gets weirder. Following clues after additional appearances, Gloria realizes that if she sets foot in a local playground at exactly 8:05, that monster appears on the other side of Earth, mimicking every move she makes.
This magical monster is enough to take the lives of everyone on the planet in an unexpected direction. For Gloria specifically, it’s a revelation poised to put her on a path toward reclaiming her identity and sense of self-worth. And while Gloria fights her personal foes, her alter ego has a pound-for-pound enemy of its own to conquer in building-sized beast form.
From “Timecrimes” (review here) to “Open Windows” (review here), writer/director Nacho Vigalondo routinely proves to be one of the most unconventionally creative filmmakers in contemporary genre cinema. When it comes to executing his imaginative ideas, “Colossal” proves nothing is off limits, even if tackling a potentially touchy topic through entertaining storytelling.
Consistently fearless in nearly everything he dares to do cinematically, Vigalondo follows Brian De Palma’s line of thought that unrealistic concepts can and will work when they are grounded by actors embodying relatable, human people. This is achieved through perfectly-cast performances from Anne Hathaway as Gloria and Jason Sudeikis as Oscar.
Anne Hathaway has, bizarrely, earned ire from some who see her unflatteringly for reasons they can’t necessarily explain. Should that be the case, her character in “Colossal” could be the cure to swinging back toward Hathaway’s side.
Gloria’s wrong foot introduction draws some head-shaking sighs for being an often distracted ditz complicit in the inability to get her act together. As she gradually evolves out of her depressive cycle, Gloria emerges as a strong survivor worthy not of sympathy, but of admiration. Strangely, Hathaway’s offscreen baggage works in her favor to fuel a perception of personality that propels Gloria’s transformative arc.
The same is true of Jason Sudeikis. Normally known for playing comedic characters or romantic interests, preconceptions of Sudeikis’ usual roles make him ideal for catching audiences off guard with a sudden switch from affable to assh*le that others in his category could never pull off convincingly. You almost can’t believe what you’re seeing from Sudeikis initially. Then he is so good at juggling both sides, you can’t believe you never saw it coming in the first place.
What’s wonderful about the world where “Colossal” takes place is it mirrors everyday reality, yet a giant monster attack is as commonplace of a newsworthy disaster as a devastating typhoon. Superficially, paralleling plotlines by making one a faceoff between a beastly behemoth and a gargantuan robot should be an absurd frame for serious subtext about toxic masculinity in an age of woke millennialism. But that absurdity underscores an idea that outdated notions of subservient gender roles should also be considered as equally impossible, even when they most regrettably are not.
If all of this commentary sounds like a turnoff, don’t fear. “Colossal” is a crowd-pleaser on more levels than that, and one of them is as a slam-bang colossal creature slugfest capable of making Toho smile.
It’s a cliché to say it, but it bears stating nonetheless. “Colossal” is unlike any movie you’ve ever seen. It’s a comedic empowerment drama about escaping abuse dressed up in kaiju film form. Against improbable odds, these unlikely potpourri pieces work in concert to create a unique motion picture that is funny, sweet, smart, sly, and sometimes even savage.
Review Score: 85