Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 49 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language
Directed by: Nacho Vigalondo
Written by: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson & Dan Stevens
I’ve been holding off on reviewing COLOSSAL for a while now. The main reason for that is because this film is so strange that it’s hard to accurately sum up what makes it so enjoyable and refreshing for me. I know there are people who completely hate this film and I understand why they might feel that way. However, I dug the hell out of COLOSSAL for being the best bizarre little dramedy combined with a kaiju film that I’ve ever seen. This movie has monsters, laughs, and feels. What more could you possibly ask for from one-of-a-kind Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo (who’s also known for TIMECRIMES, so-so thriller OPEN WINDOWS, and the only good segment in V/H/S: VIRAL).
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has sunk to an all-time low in her life. She’s struggling with alcoholism, her lack of a job, a recent break-up with her frustrated boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), and, to cap it all off, she’s moved back to her depressing hometown. Things aren’t all bad though, because she’s reconnected with her long-lost childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) and he owns a bar. There’s also been a recent appearance of a giant monster terrorizing South Korea, but that couldn’t have anything to do with Gloria’s return to her hometown, right? Well, actually, Gloria is somehow connected to this monster and the resulting antics spiral out of control as she discovers that millions of lives rest in her hands.
First and foremost, COLOSSAL works as a comedy-drama about a gal who’s trying to maintain control of her life and battle her personal demons. That might not be the sentence you expect to hear when describing a giant monster movie, but it’s definitely the descriptor that fits COLOSSAL. This film really functions on Gloria, her tepid relationships with men, and her struggle to overcome her problems. Meanwhile, there’s a monster terrorizing South Korea, but this evolves into something funnier and stranger as it moves along.
This film wouldn’t be funny, compelling or oddly heartwarming if it weren’t for Anne Hathaway’s performance in the leading role of Gloria. Hathaway plays a walking mess of a person who’s just trying to keep her shit together, while not entirely succeeding at that goal. As much as I could see her big character flaws, I cared about Gloria and wanted her to overcome her issues. Some actors and actresses don’t really know how to properly play drunk and instead come off as obnoxiously pretending that they’re wasted, but I believed Hathaway’s performance. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if she was downing shots between her takes and I mean that in the best way possible.
On the supporting side of things, Jason Sudeikis makes a big impression here. Though he’s primarily known for comedies and COLOSSAL is technically a sci-fi comedy, Sudeikis gets room to flex his dramatic chops and Oscar is the most serious character that I’ve ever seen him play. I hesitate to say more, but Sudeikis becomes a force to be reckoned with in this film and I was surprised to see this performance coming from him. Dan Stevens occasionally pops up as Gloria’s concerned ex-boyfriend, who’s not exactly a jerk and yet has jerk-like qualities. I wish that Stevens role had been bigger, because the wrap-up to a certain plot thread would have felt more significant if he had more screen time. Also, Tim Blake Nelson is a welcomed presence as one of Oscar’s best friends and Austin Stowell is fast forgotten is a potential love interest.
Though it was made on a relatively small budget for a giant monster flick (15 million), COLOSSAL packs in great special effects. The creature design is unique and the news footage of it terrorizing Seoul is fun to watch. Director Nacho Vigalondo knows when to show the audience the chaos and when to leave it to our imagination. The less-is-more approach to certain scenes probably came from budget constraints, but these bits are effective in letting the viewer’s mind fill in the blanks. Sometimes, the mere suggestion of something combined with a few lines of dialogue can have more of an effect than showing tons of action.
If I have any complains about COLOSSAL, they stem from a couple of plot holes and the screenplay’s occasionally unfocused nature. It felt like the film was going to do more with Dan Stevens, Tim Blake Nelson, and Austin Stowell, and then completely forgot about them at points. Also, there’s an attempt to explain what’s going on and this explanation raises more questions than answers. Even with those problems in mind, COLOSSAL is a very fun, entertaining, and original flick. The comedy-drama elements are the main thrust of this story, with the monster stuff serving as a compelling twist on material that you’ve likely seen executed in many other comedy-dramas. This results in a cinematic oddity that’s thoroughly enjoyable and unique. If this sounds up your alley, then I highly recommend checking out COLOSSAL.