An interesting aspect of Colossal how the movie will surprise you almost no matter what you know about it going in, because no matter what, it’s not what you think it is. So, for that reason, SPOILER WARNING. The movie is great, presents you with things that you could not possibly expect going in, and is probably the best movie I have seen so far, this year. The script is great, the actors are GREAT, the whole thing is great. Go see it.
Colossal is the story of Gloria, a young, unemployed writer with an alcohol problem. After breaking up with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), she moves back to her small-town home and takes up residence in her childhood home (I think her parents live somewhere else?). She quickly gets reacquainted with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and his two friends, Joel and Garth (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson) and finds work in Oscars bar, where she spends most evenings drinking and goofing off with Oscar and the others after hours. After one of many nights of drinking, Gloria wakes up to discover that a giant monster (Kaiju) has attacked South Korea. Or rather, it stumbled around South Korea as if in a drunken haze because Gloria shortly thereafter realizes that when she stumbles home drunk through a local park, she causes the monster to manifest itself halfway across the world. Her giant avatar does whatever she does, only within the city limits of Seoul, South Korea. Things take a darker turn when Oscar’s jealousy, lust and self-hatred manifests itself towards Gloria and the rest of the group as well as when he discovers that when HE walks through the park a giant robot appears alongside Gloria’s monster in Korea, forcing Gloria to take control of her life and deal with his more and more violent and manipulative impulses.
Sadly, what little publicity this movie has been getting spoils the kaiju aspect of the film, which makes sense from a marketing standpoint, but ultimately that doesn’t hurt the viewing experience either way. Monsters are, after all, metaphors for other things and topics and it’s only by watching the movie that you really get a hold of what the movie is really about; Gloria’s monster is a stand in for her own life, which is perilously close to spinning completely out of control. The movie implies that she has had some success in the past as a writer but that that all was a while ago and she hasn’t made much use of her skills since. As somebody who hasn’t exactly conquered life, that hit home especially hard and make me emphasize and connect with her right away. The destruction she accidently inflicts to innocent bystanders thousands of miles away forces her to take control of her life and move past her self wallowing sadness and sense of being stuff in place.
Where her monster avatar is a moment of reproach and self-actualization for Gloria about the power she actually has in life, it’s a dark turn to the worst impulses of Oscar. Clearly smitten by Gloria, his feelings about her success, her escaping their small town, and the status of his own life as a small-town bar owner, combine into a toxic soup that drives him to using the power of his robot to blackmail Gloria into staying in town with him even after she clearly wants to leave. His self-hatred and ‘nice guy’ persona fuel him to became a real monster, both in town and in faraway South Korea. The climax of the film, where they face off once last time but not in the way you would think, is one of the most cathartic moments of cinema that I have seen in quite some time.
Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis make this movie. Without their powerful performances, I think that some of the absurdity and weirdness of the premise would sink into some viewers and ruin some of the power of the movie. Weird people like my sister don’t like Anne Hathaway for some reason, but she’s proven to be one of the most talented actors out there. She infuses Gloria with a multi-dimensional personality that feels real and lived in. Gloria is a woman you might meet at a party and you two might hit it off or you might find her distinctly unpleasant and Hathaway keeps that going for the character throughout the movie right till the end. I’ve always like Jason Sudeikis, from SNL onward really, but he really impressed me in this movie. He skillfully takes Oscar down a dark path that reveals more and more terrible things about him and he is compelling the whole way down, especially the scene in his bar where he sets off fireworks late in the movie. Sudeikis has a slightly detached acting style, almost as if his characters are sometimes observing the scenes he is in with the audience, and that opaque stillness really works here; it allows his rage and sadness to explode out of nowhere and then vanish almost just as quickly. Outbursts like that can feel really forced sometimes, but he makes it work really well. There final confrontation, which I mentioned above, only delivers because both actors work so well together throughout the movie. Sadly, the supporting cast is kind of forgotten, which makes sense, but they do feel like dangling threads by the end of the movie.
I’m not familiar with Nacho Vigalondo, the writer and director, but he clearly knows what he is doing. The script explains a lot without ever feeling like it’s just dumping information on you and he drops hints about what is to come later in the film throughout the early part of the movie that really tie things together in a way that elevates the whole film.
No matter how much of this movie you might know about going in, I think it will surprise you; the kaiju aspect will surprise you, the darkness and emotional depths it ventures to will surprise you, and I think the performances will surprise you as well. I was floored by how much this movie spoke to me and how much I enjoyed it. It’s easily the best movie I have seen this year. Go see it.