Film Review: Colossal
I can imagine the moment director Nacho Vigalondo pitched Colossal to the Hollywood execs who funded it. “It’s a pretty straightforward run-of-the mill premise,” he says. “A troubled alcoholic moves back to her family home in small-town America only to discover she is inadvertently terrorizing Seoul, you know, the capital of South Korea.”
“Mmm… and how is she doing that?”
“By controlling a kind of giant reptile that appears out of nowhere and destroys buildings and tramples on people. Trust me, this one’s got legs… ”
And that’s the thing about Colossal, with a premise as weird as that, it’s going to take some pretty exceptional film making to keep it hinged together. The story unfolds thus: Gloria is an unemployed former online journalist who has escaped her small-town upbringing to land in New York where she has settled with stiff English boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). But with the failure of her career, she has become a drunk and the film opens with the breakdown of this relationship as Tim kicks Gloria out after another broken promise to reform her ways.
She moves back to her vacant family home sleeping on a blow-up bed. She quickly bumps into an old friend, Oscar (carefully played by Sudeikis) who clearly had more feelings for her than she did to him, who offers her a job in his bar. Not the best way to give up the demon drink, you’d think. And once the two of them are joined each night by two of Oscar’s friends start for some after-hours drinking, they soon realise that Gloria’s drunken behaviour at a local playground is having a rather dramatic impact on events in South Korea. But even as Gloria realizes the enormity of her actions, the behaviour of one of her three male companions becomes even more terrifying…
Most critics have been complimentary about Colossal – highlighting how Hathaway and fellow lead Jason Sudeikis put in arguably career-best performances – but ultimately, this will be a divisive film. Some viewers will enjoy the unreal off-beat nature and revel in its genre-busting approach. Is it a monster movie? Not really. Is it a dark comedy? Well, kind of. But for some, the fact it’s so hard to pigeon-hole means you never quite feel ‘based’ in the action. It’s kind of B movie-era Godzilla meets Grosse Point Blank and the results are as weird as that sounds.
Are we watching an intelligent psychological profile of a recovering alcoholic as she comes to terms with the fact that one of her friends is actually a psychopath or are we watching an arthouse twist on a Japanese-inspired monster movie?
And while the final act is a success – resolving the plot creatively and satisfyingly – I was left with the strange sensation that I would happily have watched a Japanese B movie or an art house drama – just not at the same time.