Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens
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This is what would happen if Pacific Rim and When Harry Met Sally had a baby, and it’s freaking awesome!
It’s unclear whether writer/director Nacho Vigalondo (True Crimes, Extraterrestrial, Open Windows) is trying to deconstruct the traditional ‘monster movie’ here, or if he’s just taking the piss in a world of post-ironic content. Either way, Colossal is a stupid, imaginative, far-fetched, fantastical romp that brings to life a veritable genre frankenstein of b-grade monster movies and rom-coms. And it’s freaking awesome.
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an out-of-work writer and New York party girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), is forced to leave her life in the city and move back to her sleepy hometown, upstate, where she reconnects with her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea, Gloria gradually comes to the realisation that she is somehow connected to this far-off phenomenon. As events begin to spin out of control, Gloria must determine why her seemingly insignificant existence has such a colossal effect on the fate of the world.
If Pacific Rim and When Harry Met Sally had a baby, it would be Colossal. Vigalondo’s original screenplay and direction are very, very silly. So silly that you kind of give up on any semblance of critical redemption and really lean into the epic bravado and disbelief of it all. Having said that, it’s clear in Vigalondo’s writing that he isn’t too crash hot with the whole symbolism thing, where the monsters in the narrative are hackneyed, thinly-veiled attempts to represent the addiction and rage issues of some of the characters. It will definitely set off your most epic internal Liz Lemon eye-roll.
Having said that, the film isn’t your run-of-the-mill, brainless action-fest. It’s actually quite clever and well-resolved in terms of depth of character and plot structure. Gloria for example, is a self-destructive alcoholic wreck, fumbling toward redemption with limited success, trying to prove to her ex-boyfriend that she can, in fact, take control of her life in a bid to win him back. She is also however, a woman battling for her survival in the shadow of two very different monsters on either side of the world.
Jason Sudeikis’ character is also quite unpredictable – is he good? Is he bad? You just don’t know until the very end! Watching him, you get the impression that even Vigalondo didn’t know where the Oscar character would end up when writing it, which keeps things spicy.
Though it’s not winning any Oscars, Colossal is strangely a bit of a filmmakers’ film – flying in the face of two long celebrated genres and experimenting wildly and unapologetically with a veritable smorgasbord of strict tropes and traditions. The writing, the way it’s been shot and edited, even the performances – everything has been custom-made to play with the boundaries so much so that it almost feels like satire (don’t worry, not in a Scary Movie way, more like Adaptation, minus the inevitable critical acclaim).
In any case, Colossal is big, loud and dumb in the most endearing sense. It’s got its problems, sure, but with a strong, complex female lead and monsters that tear up South Korea, you end up suspending your disbelief so much that leaning into it is unavoidable – not to mention fun.