Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal has such an insanely weird premise, I've got to give credit to Anne Hathaway for having the guts to sign onto the project. With a few false moves, the film could’ve been an embarrassment. Instead, it’s nothing short of a triumph for all involved.
Hathaway plays Gloria, an unemployed alcoholic who gets kicked out of the fancy Manhattan apartment she shares with her judgy boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). (He claims he’s doing it for her own good). Without a proper job or a place to live, she skulks back home to some unnamed small town, and holes up in the now empty house she grew up in. She immediately runs into her old pal Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who has been keeping tabs on her seemingly glamorous life in NYC. He keeps bringing her things—a futon, a TV—and eventually offers her a job at the bar he owns. We think we know where all this is all going. But here’s the first twist: While Gloria’s life is being upended, Seoul, Korea has come under attack by a giant, Godzilla-like monster. Watching footage of the monster on TV, Gloria notices that it scratches its head in exactly the same manner she does. Then she begins to notice it does everything in exactly the same manner she does. Somehow, every time she stands in a particular place in the elementary school playground, she becomes—or at least controls—the beast.
At this point, it’s clear the beast is a giant metaphor for personal demons—alcoholism, low self-esteem, et al. But then the film introduces another, even more compelling twist.
[Okay, friends, it’s here that I’m going to suggest you check out of this review until you’ve seen the film because I’m about to reveal an even more unexpected twist. Suffice it to say, this film is good. Go see it. But come back once you have. Because we’ve got lots to talk about.]
Soooo…in Seoul, Gloria’s monster is joined by yet another monster—a giant robot who is being controlled by none other than Oscar. (Their manifestation as giant monsters is linked to a cryptic moment they shared in childhood). At first this seems like it could be a fun bonding experience for the two of them—boy meets girl; boy and girl become giant monster thingies together—except it goes horribly awry. One night, Gloria, seeking a little unencumbered fun, sleeps with a friend of Oscar’s and this sends Oscar spiraling into a rage, thinking that he, the “nice guy,” is the one deserving of her love. From there, Oscar begins to use his robot monster—and its ability to inflict pain—to trap and control Gloria. If she doesn’t stay in his small town, working at his bar, he threatens to hurt and kill many more.
Sudeikis, I must say, is wonderful in this part. We’re so used to seeing him as a kind of nonthreatening (handsome, but not too handsome), wise-cracking mensch, it takes an incredibly long time to realize that the dude is, well, a legit monster. Also, of course, we’ve all been brought up on the same rom-com tropes: The nice guy always does land the girl—once she realizes what a great guy he is and how devoted he is to her. But here’s the thing: recent events—the most notorious being the murder spree by self-proclaimed “perfect guy” Elliot Rodger—have shown us that this so-called Nice Guy Syndrome can have dangerous consequences. This is what Vigalondo and co. are explicitly driving at here. No one deserves a woman’s love—not even a good guy. (Also, fact check: If you think you’re entitled to a woman, you’re not as nice you think you are.) So Colossal becomes about a woman slaying her own demons and the controlling men who think they deserve her.
Anne Hathaway is great as Gloria—sad, goofy, sexy, relatable. (Reminder: Anne Hathaway has always been great.) The film also has one of the best endings of anything I’ve seen this year. Colossal continued to surprise and delight me right up until the final frame. It's a totally thrilling original.
Colossal opens at the Charles Theatre on April 21.