Do you ever imagine how cool it would be if you were a 100-foot tall monster that could appear and disappear at will, stomping on anyone you didn’t like the look of? Yeah, me too. Or at least I did.
Colossal is an intriguing movie. Set up by an opening sequence set 25 years ago in Seoul, South Korea, it kicks off like any good kaiju movie would – with our first hint of the massive beast scaring some little children. Lovely. However, fast forward to present day, and the next 30 minutes present something entirely different.
Gloria, played impeccably by Anne Hathaway, is stuck in a bit of rut. When we meet her, she’s an immature, irresponsible alcoholic, who is promptly dumped by her boyfriend and evicted from their New York apartment after yet another rubbish lie, that doesn’t hide the all-nighter she’s just stumbled in from. Returning to her empty childhood home with no money, no job and pretty much nothing but the clothes she has on, she’s a sorry state. As luck would have it, she bumps into a long forgotten friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who just happens to own the local bar. After a heavy night, Gloria wakes to discover that a huge monster had appeared out of nowhere in Seoul, caused a bit of a ruckus, then promptly vanished into thin air. The world is talking about it and nobody knows what the hell is going on. Especially not Gloria, in her permanent state of semi-intoxication.
We soon discover, through watching the monster’s behaviour on the morning news reports, that Gloria is somehow controlling the beast. It does exactly what she does, exactly when she’s doing it, from a spot of impromptu dancing to mimicking her throwing her phone away in frustration. Through watching what the monster has done the previous night, she figures out that it only appears when she is in a very specific place, at a very specific time.
That much you can get from the trailers for the movie, but what surprised me about Colossal was the emotional punch it packs. First of all, it’s NOT a monster movie. It’s also not as much of a comedy as I thought it looked. Yes, Gloria’s massive counterpart is quite cool, but he’s not the star of the show. We don’t even see him all that often. It’s all about Gloria. She’s an emotional disaster, a complete failure and is utterly broken, and Anne nails it. She’s really exceptional.
Oscar isn’t without demons of his own, and the relationship between them is unstable, complicated, violent and unhealthy. Does it lead to some laughs? Yes. Can it be uncomfortable and uncompromising? Absolutely. When the realisation that she has probably killed an awful lot of people hits her, Gloria attempts to control her monster and make good, but the damage has been done. As the movie progresses, it becomes more and more layered, with Gloria trying to climb out of her own frazzled mind, but finding an unexpected obstacle along the way.
The metaphors aren’t subtle in the slightest, but the performances are outstanding. There’s much more to say about the story and the character development, but I’d rather leave the rest to be discovered.
The writer and director, Nacho Vigalondo, is a complete unknown to me, but his balancing of the two sides to the story is absolutely masterful, and if played straight would make for a downbeat and thoroughly depressing watch. Hidden behind the guise of a monster movie, it’s at odds with itself, but it’s a wonderfully quirky, psychological and intelligent piece of work.
It’s not at all what I expected, and really quite unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I highly recommend it.
4* Definitely see it, but maybe watch a happy movie afterwards.