Colossal (2017) Review

Colossal follows Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an alcoholic and unemployed trainwreck who gets dumped by her British boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). With little choices left, she moves back to her small hometown to live in her parents’ empty house. From there, she reconnects with her childhood friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who owns a bar and met his friends (Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell). Then something unusual happens. A gigantic kaiju-like monster from out of nowhere is wreaking havoc in the heart of Seoul has made a headline around the world. And strangely enough, it has something to do with Gloria…

From the poster that sees Anne Hathaway and the giant monster scratching the top of their heads, to the lighthearted and fun-filled trailers, it’s easy to be mistaken that Colossal is positioned like a kaiju-centric comedy. While it’s true that comedy is a major element in this movie, there’s actually more to it. I was floored at how Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo able to come up such a weird yet unusually fascinating piece of work that defies genre conventions. I understand it’s clearly not for everybody, especially for those who are expecting this to be a straight-up funny take on the classic monster-movie genre. Instead, Colossal is one of those rare Hollywood movies with a recognisable cast that dares to be experimental and different than your usual cinematic offering.

Vigalondo, of course, is no stranger to toying with genre conventions and high-concept premises. This is especially evident in his past directorial efforts including Timecrimes (2007), Extraterrestrial (2011) and Open Windows (2014). In Colossal, he set up his latest movie with an interesting mix of romantic comedy and monster movie. In one scene, it’s amusing to see Gloria moving her arms around and the monster is doing the same in a simultaneous motion. In another, it’s delightful to see how Gloria and Oscar interact with each other as two childhood friends who haven’t seen each other for a long time.

From there, it gets really interesting as the movie moves along. Vigalondo, who also scripted the movie personally, soon explores his story further with his odd but compulsively watchable tonal shifts. Deep down, Colossal is also about addressing Gloria’s drinking problem and Vigalondo made good use of the monster as both metaphor and personification that relates to her character. Then comes the shocking part, a twist that sees one of the characters turning into an antagonist. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you here. All I can say it’s an unexpectedly grim psychodrama, which truly caught me by surprise.

Of course, none of these twisty and genre-defying elements that unfolds throughout the movie would have worked if not for the cast, who sell their respective roles well enough. Anne Hathaway is appealing and engaging as always, alternating from comedy to drama with relative ease as the troubled Gloria. This is no doubt one of her best performances since her Oscar-winning supporting role in Les Misérables (2012). Jason Sudeikis, in the meantime, proves to be an actor who knows more than just comedy. The comedian, best known for his roles in We’re the Miller (2013) and the two Horrible Bosses movies, has a knack to pull off some dramatic chops after all.

If there’s any flaw in this movie, it’s pity to see Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell are largely relegated to filler roles as Gloria and Oscar’s friends. Despite the minor shortcoming, Colossal deserves its spot as one of the best movies of the year. Those who are adventurous enough to look for something extraordinary, this is definitely the one.

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