Colossal is an offbeat drama-comedy with surreal elements directed by Nacho Vigalondo, starring Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway who also serves as producer. Nacho Vigalondo is a Spanish film maker perhaps most famous for fantastic low budget sci-fi thriller Time Crimes that was available on Netflix for the longest time where it steadily grew a cult following (it’s great – definitely check it out).
Anne Hathaway is Gloria, an unemployed writer who is a COLOSSAL mess! She spends most nights drinking and most days recovering in a state of perpetual hangover. In the beginning of the movie, her boyfriend kicks her out of his apartment in New York city for drinking. Gloria is forced to return to her sleepy hometown. It is here she re-connects with old school friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who offers her a job working at his bar. Meanwhile halfway across the world, a giant Godzilla styled monster is seen to attack Seoul, of which Gloria realises she is inadvertently controlling by turning up in a playground at a certain time of day.
Boy, that plot synopsis certainly took a stark turn towards the end! But you read correctly, I am not making this up.
Small personal problems and volatile relationships, that usually play out and denature behind the scenes – destructive to the self – suddenly become embiggened and broadcast across the world posing a real threat to humanity. This is basically the premise at the heart of Colossus. Can we control our problems before they hurt other people and the relationships we hold dear? Do we have the power to change our basic nature?
It’s a pretty grand question for what is a weird little movie. Colossal has this quirky indie sensibility in it’s depiction of this damaged woman wandering aimlessly through the empty rooms of her life. This is woven in with a Kaufman esque layer of absurdity. Like John Malkovich it has to set up the rules of how this woman controls this monster within a strict code of limitations (it’s easier to watch than explain). At it’s centre, you have Anne Hathaway who is playing this kind of goof ball character you’ve seen her play in other movies, like the Princess Diaries, but there’s no Julie Christie to ‘pygmalion’ her into a life of monarchy. The story also turns into a much darker waters dealing with some very difficult themes.
A lot has been made about this movie being a story about alcohol addiction which I’m not sure if I whole heartedly agree with. Anne Hathaway’s character is a mess, but the movie never relishes in showing you the lows she goes, it is told more through Gloria’s forever state of hangover. There are lingering shots of spirits behind the bar which are enough to tell you all you need to know. Drinks and bottles are slammed down in front of her. Her ‘friends’ must know she has a problem but they keep passing on drink to her. Her friend comes by to drop off a sofa for her house, which they talked about the previous night, a conversation Hathaway’s character has no recollection of. Of which we have no recollection of. We’re experiencing it through Hathaway’s character and she definitely knows she has a problem, which endears us to her character.
As the movie goes on, each of the characters is revealed to have an infliction of some kind that manifests in this bar they all float around. The supporting cast, a pretty boy who steals Gloria’s affections is completely useless in situations, displaying cowardice at every juncture. Another bar fly is revealed to have a drug problem. A perfect ex-boyfriend seems too perfect, despite having thrown his girlfriend out of his apartment he still instigates this dominance in the relationship to ensure that she gets better. These are all flawed people.
Then you have Jason Sudeikis’s character, Oscar. I’ve never really liked Sudeikis in other movies he has appeared in (granted that was Horrible Bosses 1 and 2 which even made Jason Bateman and Charlie Day unfunny). There’s something of the Vince Vaughn about him, at first he’s likable as the small town bar owner – your buddy! but there’s just a latent swarminess that makes me a little uncofortable. Colossal basically plays on this sliding into much darker territory with this character dealing with more difficult themes. The first and second half of this movie don’t feel like the same movie in some ways – those who were sold on the goofball comedy as depicted in the happy-go-lucky trailer may feel a little shortchanged.
At no point does the film seek to exorcise the characters of their conditions completely in that ‘movie style’. There are no parents to have a heart to heart with, to show the way with wisdom. These characters are stuck in small town purgatory. Just as the globe watches the horror unfold on TV as this giant monster stomping over the city that brought us Gangham Style, there is a sense of detachment from events, a detachment that is all too familiar especially in light of recent terrorist attacks. We can only watch on in horror. Completely powerless.
This being a movie you expect miracles to happen, for characters to change, to show us that great personal upheaval is possible. Whilst there is a miracle towards the end, in which Hathaway’s character does get to absolve her problems in a meaningful way, there is a feeling that the characters are never going to get over their own personal demons, and as an audience, there is nothing we can really do about it except watch on and mutter ‘oh dear’.
A more mainstream audience may venture into Colossal expecting another Anne Hathaway goofball comedy – The Princess Diary meets Pacific Rim. It introduces you to this interesting metaphor as a concept and then goes into some very black territory that deals with addiction and domestic abuse. Your never quite sure where it’s going after that. Whilst Colossal never really shocks, it does enough to make you feel very uneasy.
A weird little film. I think I liked it, but it won’t be for everyone…