Updated: Feb 4, 2020
Colossal begins with a clever idea and uses it to create an entertaining, funny and surprisingly thoughtful film.
A complete mess of a woman with a severe drinking problem, Gloria (Anne Hathaway), returns to her quiet American hometown after her boyfriend (Legion’s Dan Stevens) breaks up with her. Her plan is to try and take some control of her life, but everything changes when she discovers that she is somehow also the giant monster that is terrorizing Seoul.
It sounds like the premise to a clever short film, but somehow it fills out a feature (103 minutes minus the end credits) without feeling stretched out. The performances (specifically Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, playing impressively against type) are smartly low-key since the tone of the film is more in line with a quirky indie comedy than an action-packed monster movie. In fact, there is very little action in the film and that action is on a smaller, more personal level.
It was written and directed by the Spanish-born Nacho Vigalondo. This is his fourth feature film (he also wrote all of them). His first film, Timecrimes (2007), is a twisty time-travel story involving only a few characters. His second, Extraterrestrial (2011), is his take on alien invasion films that is more of a quirky love story. His third film, Open Windows (2014), is a creepy voyeurism thriller. All four of his films take a familiar genre and turn it inward. They are not all great, but they are unpredictable, creative and interesting. I am intrigued in what he is doing next because I know it will be a vision that is uniquely his.
Vigalondo’s films are far more character based than a simple plot synopsis would lead you to believe. Colossal is no exception. What could be a wacky farce or an action comedy in other hands is instead a cross between a subdued comedy and one of those small town dramas about people trying to cope with their disappointing lives. And then it is also a monster movie.
I’d like to return to Jason Sudeikis who has the second most important role in the film as Oscar, a childhood friend of Gloria’s who is very happy to see her return home. A former cast member on Saturday Night Live, Sudeikis has built a solid film career in raunchy comedies like Hall Pass and Horrible Bosses. Here, in a more serious role, he brings a mixture of humor and darkness to his character that I did not know he had in him. It’s an impressive performance that adds to Colossal’s second half surprises.
The film worked for me for the most part. All I knew about it coming in was the central premise which is good because that allowed the twists and turns of the story to work on me. I enjoyed its originality even if it didn’t seem like Gloria was necessarily in a better place at the end of the film. Its unsatisfying emotional arc holds it back from greatness, but the film is engaging from beginning to end. I recommend the film, especially for moviegoers looking for something a little different. And I eagerly anticipate whatever Vigalondo makes next.
4 out of 5
Anne Hathaway as Gloria
Jason Sudeikis as Oscar
Austin Stowell as Joel
Tim Blake Nelson as Garth
Dan Stevens as Tim
Written and Directed by Nacho Vigalondo