Recommendation: When we control our monsters, we become ‘Colossal’.

With so many large releases coming to theaters every month, it’s hard for smaller films to break through and get your attention. One of these smaller films is out now for home release – the dark comedy Colossal, featuring the amazing talents of Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis. If this doesn’t ring any bells, don’t worry, you’re not alone. Colossal, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo,  proves to be an odd mix of light humor and deep pain with a skyscraper-sized monster thrown in for good measure, which means that most audiences either fall in love with it or are bored. In fact, the trailer depicting Anne Hathaway’s Gloria somehow controlling the monster sets the audience’s expectations for a kind of sci-fi comedy. What they get, however, is a tale of moral murkiness as Colossal explores the consequences of addiction, power, and loss of control.

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Anne Hathaway as Gloria.

Gloria is an unemployed alcoholic who finds herself homeless when her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) reaches the end of his patience and kicks her out of their apartment. With no other option, she leaves New York City for her hometown where she squats in her parents’ now vacant home. With no job, no prospects, and no money, she accepts a job working at a bar belonging to her childhood friend Oscar (Sudeikis). Just as she begins to build a new life for herself, a monster appears out of nowhere in Seoul, South Korea, wandering aimlessly as it destroys the city, sending the whole world into a panic. To make matters worse, Gloria slowly comes to a realization that she’s not only somehow connected to the monster, but responsible for all the terror it unleashes.

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Gloria and the monster dance.

There are a lot of unique surprises tucked into Colossal’s seemingly straight-forward narrative and this recommendation will strive to not unveil any of them. The surprises in Colossal are the reason this film struck such a strong chord within EoM and they are best left for the audience to discover on their own. However, what we can tell you is that what begins as a stereotypical character-drama slowly evolves into a chilling exploration of abuse. Vigalondo’s glacial approach to storytelling serves as a means of easing the audience into the film, delicately revealing more and more pieces of the central narrative until the true nature of both Gloria’s monster connection and the core of the film are revealed. Taking such an approach might seem oddball given that audiences are teased with monster mayhem in the trailer, yet by doing so Vigalondo ensures that the audience is fully primed and ready before things go fully gonzo. And they do in a terrifyingly beautiful way.

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L-R: Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis as Oscar, Tim Blake Nelson as Garth, and Austin Stowell as Joel.

Much of the success of the film belongs to the cast. Each actor brings to life a character who’s flawed in some way and conveys this without the aid of exposition most films employ. Taking the lead are Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis, whose ranges are on full-display throughout the film. As the tagline suggests, there’s a monster lurking in all of us, and it only takes the right circumstance, the right catalyst for it to appear. For the two characters Hathaway and Sudeikis portray, their monsters are less visible than the one stomping around Seoul. Gloria is a mostly functioning alcoholic, whose perceived self-worth and lack of ambition cause her to relapse again and again. Hathaway effortlessly adds dimension to Gloria, using every bit of her instinctual charm to make Gloria’s hot mess approachable and redeemable, even when every decision she makes seems destructive. Similarly, Sudeikis’s Oscar is the old friend who never left home, who never found his way beyond the world he knew. Both of these individuals have their crosses to bear and their actions, no matter how grisly or appalling, are made somehow understandable given the delicate nuances both actors utilized to bring Gloria and Oscar to life. Interestingly, centering the story on Gloria’s move home feels like the obvious symbol of starting over, something that Hathaway’s performance clearly demonstrates Gloria is forcibly against doing. For both characters, home is not a safe space, but a battlefield; a notion Vigalondo makes more and more explicit, as well as significant, the further into the story we go.

Colossal

Dark, comedic, and possessing of more depth than expected from the trailers or from the start, Colossal is a breakout monster film which seeks to examine the darkness that lurks within us all. Like all things, what’s monstrous is all about perception, and Gloria and Oscar see themselves as the heroes of their stories. With lesser actors, Colossal could easily be a campy B-movie, but both Hathaway and Sudakis raise the script into something that audiences will find themselves discussing at length to dig through what they loved, and come back for repeat viewings to find what they missed. That’s why Colossal is one of the top five films of 2017, and why you should give it a chance.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.

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