The Good: Cool idea, Awesome performances, Intriguing characters, Great plot development, Good direction
The Bad: Nothing.
The Basics: Colossal is a clever and complicated film that showcases the incredible talents of Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis and Nacho Vigalondo and sets the bar for the Best Picture Oscar amazingly high.
Anne Hathaway can get me to watch pretty much anything. The nature of being a fan of someone's work is that when the person one is a fan of creates something new, fans flock to it regardless. Recently, I was trying to describe why I was a fan of Anne Hathaway's works and I completely blanked. Ironically, with the new indie film Colossal, it is hard not to make a review that degenerates into a list of compliments about Anne Hathaway's acting skills.
From watching Anne Hathaway realistically playing drunk and shocked to the vastly underrated way Hathaway portrays lugging something heavy (seriously, how hard is it for actors to play things like lifting a cup that is supposed to be filled with a liquid look like it has mass to it?!), Colossal is enough to sell anyone on how impressive Anne Hathaway is as an actress. Hathaway plays Gloria in Colossal and the film illustrates well her talents and how neglected Jason Sudeikis's talents have been in his comedic endeavors. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis are absolutely amazing in Colossal and their on-screen chemistry helps to completely sell the incredible and weird plot of the film.
Gloria has been out all night - again - partying when she returns home to her boyfriend's New York apartment. Tim, fed up with Gloria and having the same fight over and over with her, packs up Gloria's stuff and sends her packing. In shock and with nowhere else to turn, Gloria returns to Maine Head, where she grew up. Moving into her parents' abandoned house, Gloria tries to lie low for a while. The next day, though, Gloria is lugging her air mattress back to her parents' house when Oscar drives by and picks her up. The two went to elementary school together and when Oscar shows off his bar to Gloria, the two begin to rekindle their old friendship.
But after Gloria gets drunk and starts stumbling home, she cuts through a park and barely makes it home before losing consciousness. When Gloria wakes up, she learns that a giant monster has attacked Seoul. She is even more alarmed when the monster mysteriously appears in Seoul again and the footage shows the monster displaying the same nervous tick Gloria possesses. It does not take long before Gloria realizes that somehow being in the park at the right time causes her to become the monster in Seoul. When Oscar accompanies the guilt-ridden Gloria to the park, a giant robot appears with the monster in Seoul and soon Oscar and Gloria are in a drunken conflict that leads each of them to a series of disturbing realizations about themselves and their relationship with one another.
Colossal is a clever idea for a film that develops well from one thing to another to still another and the result is a complicated movie that does not allow easy classification. In fact, Colossal takes so long to get truly heavy that by the time it does, viewers might be more baffled by how the film got an "R" rating than by the surreal plot.
Unlike many films, Colossal continues to transform itself and keep the viewer guessing. Colossal begins as a drama about an alcoholic going through a relationship crisis. Anne Hathaway has portrayed exactly that type of character before, adeptly and unsettlingly, in Rachel Getting Married (reviewed here!). Hathaway makes Gloria realistic and incredible in Colossal as Gloria is overcome with guilt upon recognizing that the monster in Seoul has killed many people. But the revelation that Gloria is the monster in Seoul and the park acts as something of a conduit to allow that transformation and transposition comes ridiculously early in Colossal.
And then Colossal smartly continues to develop. It is in the last third of the film that Jason Sudeikis dominates and shows off heretofore unknown depths of talent. Sudeikis's Oscar is unpeeled in the course of Colossal; the character does not transform, he is revealed. Sudeikis make the development appear entirely organic and unsettling as Oscar goes from savior to tormentor and the credit goes to his performance for that. Sudeikis plays wide-eyed and earnest so well that it is easy to see how Gloria is drawn in and when Oscar brings out a giant firework, Sudeikis moves his performance in miniscule increments to the point where he becomes nauseatingly villainous.
For sure, Anne Hathaway performs the hell out of big moments like the level of anguish she portrays opposite nothing more than Jason Sudeikis stomping his feet around her or the sublime sass in the way she acts opposite only a cell phone to have Gloria stand up to Tim. But Sudeikis not only manages to match Hathaway's well-established range, he shows off depths - especially of anger - that he has not portrayed before on screen. If anyone has said immediately after seeing Sudeikis play Mitt Romney that someday that same actor would play one of the most subtly scary and abusive characters to grace the big screen, that idea would probably have gotten a bigger laugh than Sudeikis as Romney sneaking glasses of milk! But Sudeikis does exactly that as Oscar and his ability to make it appear effortless is the definition of great acting.
The supporting cast of Colossal is good, but it is Hathaway and Sudeikis who dominate the film. Colossal is the first film I've seen Dan Stevens in and in his brief stint as Tim, he illustrates he is more than just a pretty face in acting today. Tim Blake Nelson gives another diverse performance as Garth, managing to play a small time hick in a way that would confound anyone who has seen him hold his own on screen opposite the likes of George Clooney and Edward Norton. There is not a bad performance in Colossal.
Colossal is a film that is bound to become a cult classic, if for no other reason than it was released in art theaters with so little confidence for its commercial viability that one has to believe that for years people will stumble upon the film and wonder how the hell it was not a major mainstream release. Sure, Nacho Vigalondo's script and his execution of that script are smart, but the film makes organic transitions out of the seemingly extraordinary events. And the climax is not the usual art house downer that would limit the audience.
How the hell is it that a film with such amazing performances, headlined by Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis did not get picked up by a major distributor?!
Colossal is a complicated film that does all it seeks to incredibly well. In fact, as I sat down to review the film, I kept straining to come up with things I didn't like about the movie. Oscar seemingly randomly calls out his friend Garth for using his bar's bathroom to do cocaine in . . . but there is nothing random about it; it helps to characterize just how much of an asshole Oscar is underneath his good-natured facade. Gloria is not a doormat, though she is troubled; she does not fall into the stupid dialectic of "choose Oscar or Tim" and she has a strong moral core that makes her appalled at accidentally killing people in Seoul. That moral core is maintained when Gloria has to make a choice about how to resolve the threat represented by Oscar and Colossal does not come up with a cheap resolution to that.
Instead, Colossal manages to do everything right for the story it seeks to tell. Nacho Vigalondo, Jason Sudeikis, and Anne Hathaway created a perfect film. That is no small accomplishment and while I would argue that the merit of creating a perfect film is accomplishment enough, as I conclude my considerations of Colossal I am, perhaps, most thrilled by the fact that I know without a doubt my mind will never again blank on exactly why I am a fan of Anne Hathaway's works.
For other works with strong, complicated female characters who do not have to tell the audience that, please check out my reviews of:
"Duet" - Star Trek: Deep Space Nine
Jessica Jones - Season 1
For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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