Director - Nacho Vigalondo
Cast - Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Tim Blake Nelson
Rating - 4/5
We all know someone like Gloria. She arrives, at a fair estimate, 15 minutes late to every appointment. 30, if it’s professional. She takes a stifled yawn as a sign to break out that joke she’s wanted to tell all evening, and halfhearted laughter as encouragement to tell another one. She eats food off strangers’ plates and jumps at any excuse to try their colourful cocktails. Her phone, it seems, is in a permanent state of ‘cracked’. On Sundays, she sleeps.
In Colossal, which is categorically one of the weirdest films you’re likely to see this year, she is played by Anne Hathaway, all bangs and bravado, all bad decisions and bravery.
In the opening moments of the film, she gets dumped by her boyfriend, moves back into her suburban childhood home, runs into an old friend, finds work in his bar, drinks too much, passes out on a park bench, and awakens a giant kaiju who destroys half of Seoul.
She realises, a few days and a couple of more monster sightings later, that when she steps into the park at precisely 8:05 am, she turns into a Godzilla-like kaiju halfway across the world. The modest park, with its creaky swings and jungle gyms becomes her literal playground. In Seoul however, people die when she trips and falls.
Colossal is the sort of film that requires participation. Often, it takes such a confident deep dive into bizarre territory, that you pause to wonder whether it’s all an elaborate joke of some sort, as you cling with all your might to the last strands of sanity. It routinely demands that you pay attention, and imagine the monsters with, and for it – because while there’s a very traditional Pacific Rim-style monster movie playing out over in Seoul, we’re stuck in a dank bar in a nondescript American suburb, listening to Gloria and her greasy new friends talk about it over a few (several) drinks.
It’s a wonderfully original take on the kaiju movie, one that required very little money to make (presumably), some killer sound effects (because we barely get any visuals), and literally two major locations (the bar, and the playground).
And this isn’t the first time director Nacho Vigalondo has pulled off something like this. In Extraterrestrial, his second feature, a bunch of roommates woke up to find a giant flying saucer floating above Madrid. His third film, Open Windows, is set entirely inside a computer screen. But his first film is a modern classic. There is no good reason to talk about Timecrimes here, other than the fact that after reading this, it is possible that you might still not be entirely convinced that Colossal’s singular freakiness is your cup of tea (despite this glowing review), but if you take anything away from this, let that one thing be an even stronger Timecrimes recommendation.
The point being, all of Vigalondo’s movies are quite the literal deconstruction of a popular genre. ‘Literal’ being the operative word.
Because of course, Colossal is a giant, slobbery metaphor for Gloria’s alcoholism, and the wake of destruction it leaves – which, if you’ve been paying close attention, you would’ve spotted enough hints about in the above paragraphs.
And Anne Hathaway plays her with such empathy, and such strength, that the film, which for the most part has a quirky screwball comedy vibe, becomes a rather dark fable towards the end. In its second half, it makes a tonal shift so violently unexpected, that it took more than 20 minutes to recover.
It helps, I can attest, if you repeatedly remind yourself that it is all about her road to recovery. Gloria has monsters in her closet. Watch, as she kicks them in the nethers.