Colossal (2016) Review

"Colossal remains a thoroughly investing, original work."

by Steve Pulaski

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a bit of a trainwreck. She loses her job, her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), and her current living situation at their New York loft all within the first ten minutes of Colossal due to her constant drinking. This prompts her to move back to her quiet hometown where she quickly reconnects with a childhood friend named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who now runs a local bar he inherited from his father.

During her relocation, reports and disturbing footage of a towering, Groot-like monster devastating Seoul, South Korea surface, alarming her and scaring her even more when she realizes the monster is doing the exact same motions she recalls doing earlier that morning (including scratching the very top of her scalp, a common action in this film). The monster eventually is seen disappearing into thin air, resurfacing during seemingly random times.

Eventually, Oscar, who is doing his best to get Gloria settled in, realizes his motions and actions are copied by a robot who shows up along with the monster in Seoul, stepping on the city-streets and crowded town square beneath them. The two find their connection runs deep to this catastrophe and go about handling it in a few different ways.

Directed by
Nacho Vigalondo
Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell
Release Date
14 April 2017
Steve's Grade: B+

Colossal is a film I want to tell you to see, but I also don't want to tell you too much about. I went in knowing very little about it and I emerged satisfied that I did. As a result, my experience with the film was a very active and involved one, gradually trying to piece things together as if I was assembling a jigsaw puzzle in my mind, connecting ideas to themes and themes to grander ideas.

I've come to the personal consensus that Colossal is largely about three things: personal turmoil, consequences, and a tinge of foreign policy all thrown into a picture that's not easily classifiable.

Gloria and Oscar are both troubled people, but while Gloria recognizes her doings as problematic for herself, she doesn't really harm anyone else, so she thinks. However, she's aware that going through her days by pervasively toying with her mental clock, falling asleep early in the morning and waking up in the middle of the day cannot go on, especially when she spends the last few minutes away unraveling a deflated air-mattress only to use it as a blanket for when she goes to sleep on hardwood floor.

Oscar is troubled mixed with troubling because of his evident emotional instability. He increasingly smothers Gloria with a lot of attention that transcends fondness to become completely obsessive over her. When she arrives home after Tim comes to visit her while she works at Oscar's bar, she finds Oscar sitting in her living room, casually nursing a Schlitz with a cocky grin. He claims that he's just going to spend the night in the living-room making sure, you know, she doesn't call her boyfriend. His behavior, much less his obsession with power when he comes to discover his connection with the ongoing events in Seoul, is concerning and erratic.

I keep wanting to say that Anne Hathaway is back, but she really never left - she's just been doing roughly one or two projects a year (though it feels like ages since I saw the terrific Intern in theaters). Hathaway makes a case for why she should be more prolific, if nothing else, in Colossal, for her bug-eyed facial expressions, her simultaneously free-spirited and serious nature, and her acting capabilities all speak for themselves. Jason Sudeikis, a career funny-man who seems to get better at his job with each passing project, gives a career-worthy performance here, giving his initial, archetypal character for the first hour before subverting it before our eyes into a believable and sinister presence that shows how much he's grown as an actor.

Hathaway and Sudeikis' respective characters not only demonstrate the different ways people grapple with personal turmoil, but they express the idea of how some of us view our own hardships as inconsequential to others. There's an added layer of external forces here that shows the privilege of thought - the privilege to think one's actions don't have ripple effects on others and the unfortunate (or maybe fortunate) idea to know the repercussions of those actions we make (which lends to my aforementioned idea of foreign policy with the regard of how America views disasters and catastrophic events happening in places that seem so far away to them).

Writer/director Nacho Vigalondo may go metaphor-heavy with the idea behind Colossal, opting for very literal representations of what some filmmakers might have downplayed or purposefully left ambiguous. Yet the fact that Vigalondo commits to being complete in his depictions rather than half-hearted or wishy-washy is a favorable choice in my mind. The film never feels overwrought in the way you are perhaps thinking it is or eventually becomes.

Much like my experience watching Swiss Army Man, I strongly disliked the first twenty minutes of Colossal, as I struggled to get on the film's comic wavelength and feared that it would do nothing but dance around characters and never assume a particular style or a consistent wit. Once again, I was dead-wrong, and once the film introduced its core concept, it operated on intrigue and suspense in addition the dramatic heft inherent to the character-driven story, and the result was almost complete enjoyment on my behalf. There are a few strange variables abound in the film's narrative (Gloria's oddly placed relationship with Joel, one of Oscar's friends, played by Austin Stowell, is out of place and never mentioned again after a brief encounter), yet when it stays focused and fuels the creative story, it remains a thoroughly investing, original work.

3 Week Diet

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