A Giant in Her Own Right: ‘Colossal’ Review
We knew her as the princess of Genovia, as Meryl Streep’s lackey, and as a starved and sickened prostitute singing of broken dreams. In Colossal, an experimental mash up of a sci-fi and rom-com flick, Anne Hathaway is back again. This time she shrugs off her royal crown, Prada shoes, and peasant rags to play her biggest –pun intended– role yet, an alcoholic who turns into a giant reptilian monster.
It’s a silly, quirky premise – or, at least that’s what it seems like – for the first half of the movie. Hathaway plays Gloria, an alcoholic, whose boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), kicks her out of their city apartment. This forces Gloria to move back to her small hometown. There, she runs into a childhood friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who offers her a job at the bar he owns. After-hours, Gloria fuels her alcohol addiction by kicking back and drinking with Oscar and his friends, Garth (Tim Blake Nelson), and Joel (Austin Stowell). Each night she tries to stumble back home; but Gloria only makes it to a park, where she falls asleep.
Meanwhile, a giant, reptilian-like creature ravages Seoul, Korea during these nights. It wreaks havoc on the city.
The news astonishes Gloria, but not as much as the revelation that she is the monster.
At 8:05 a.m., Gloria’s presence in the park where she sleeps off her drunken state somehow manifests the presence of the creature on the other side of the world, as if stepping foot onto the playground instantaneously summoned its existence (so long as she’s at the park at exactly 8:05 a.m.). Not only that, but the creature also mirrors her own actions in the way a puppet would.
This sci-fi/rom-com/dark comedy film, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is a minefield of “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” surprises.
The first half of the movie leads you on, setting up predictable plot points such as:
A. a jackass ex-boyfriend
B. a girl trying to “find herself”
… and C. a manic-pixie-boy who also happens to be a childhood best friend — and, therefore, Gloria’s new and better love interest.
We’ve seen stories like these played out before, tweaked or adjusted for slightly different characters or settings. But there’s a reason why stories like these sell. There’s something comforting in knowing how a story will end.
Everything changes when Oscar steps into the park with Gloria at 8:05 a.m., too, and suddenly a giant robot joins the colossal reptile in Seoul.
It gives him a power trip. There, in that giant robot who he also seemingly summoned, is an opportunity to make his quiet, small town life into “something more.” Earlier interactions with Oscar, such as his habit of making people –both characters and audience members– easily pity him, can make viewers falter in their judgment of him. Do you feel bad for this guy? Or is he a bad guy? But, from that moment in the park on, the hesitation suddenly crystallizes into an epiphany. He’s an asshole.
An asshole who hates himself, as Gloria will later come to realize. But, that’s beside the point. Oscar, with this newfound superpower, reveals himself to be the true manipulative and abusive villain that he is. When Gloria doesn’t do what he wants (such as drinking a beer), he threatens to terrorize Seoul at the children’s playground the next morning and then makes good on that promise.
Suddenly, this rom-com, turned sci-fi, turned dark comedy also reveals itself to be a fight between good and evil – even when good and evil don’t always look the way we think they ought to be. Here, “good” is Gloria battling her alcoholism and trying to save the people of Seoul even if she can hardly save herself. Meanwhile, “evil” takes shape in Oscar, a quiet man running a quiet bar in a quiet town. The once safely predictable “love interest” in this story becomes the antagonist that (hopefully) everyone is rooting against.
So, why is this a big deal?
We live in an age when the terms “toxic relationships” and “abusers” often volley back and forth in discussion. But a lot of people may still not know how to identify relationships like these before it’s too late. In Colossal, the relationship crystallizes onscreen before our eyes. “Nice guys” don’t always stay nice. The flick tells you that, yes, it’s okay to fight for yourself, and your worth, and even to kick some ass while you’re at it.
Hathaway does a good job at portraying Gloria’s strength; this character’s unselfish (although at times slightly misguided) resilience fuels the movie. She is multi-faceted, unpolished, and imperfect. But she tries, a feat still worthy of admiration. Onscreen, Hathaway is a giant in her own right. As an actress of her caliber, this comes as a surprise to no one.
The real surprise, then, arrives in a story that reels audiences in under the guise of a light and silly movie; but has them leaving the theater feeling as empowered as Godzilla.
Colossal, starring Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens. Rated R. 1 hour and 49 minutes. It opened in the U.S. on April 7, 2017.