Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Colossal (Canada/Spain, 2016)

Wow. Who would have thought it possible: an Anne Hathaway film that not only doesn't suck, but is amazingly non-mainstream and interesting. Too bad she doesn't make more movies like this one. As the for the most part not very likeable Gloria, Hathaway plays less a party-girl "writer" suffering setbacks in life than an in-denial alcoholic at the start of the skids. Tossed out of the apartment by her hunky, non-enabling boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens of Apostle [2018 / trailer]), Gloria retreats to the empty family house in her old hometown, where she more or less spends her time doing nothing until she unexpectedly meets an old classmate, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a disillusioned but seemingly likeable townie who runs a bar. What initially seems like the prelude to a generic rom-com about two losers finding and saving each other takes a turn to the weird and leaves the rom-com far behind once the multi-storey-tall monster destroying Seoul, Korea, enters the picture — and is soon followed by a second monster, a huge robot…
Trailer to
Spanish director/scriptwriter Nacho Vigalondo does a good job at making the entire wacky idea work, and the final result is a well-made movie that is far less a brainless monsters-destroying-Seoul flick than an exploration of responsibility and the corruptive nature of power — though, in truth, if one picks up on some of the fleeting asides throughout the movie, the major personality change of one of the characters is hardly surprising or out of place. The guy was an asshole from the start, he only hid it behind a smokescreen of nice-guy antics. (Psychos are amazingly good at that, as anyone who's ever dealt with one knows.) More surprising is the unexpected later revelation that he isn't the only dickhead: when Gloria's boyfriend Tim shows up towards the end, seemingly out of concern, he may not reveal himself as a psycho, but his true colors do definitely fall in the direction of excessively critical in that passive aggressive "for-your-own-good" way typical of manipulative egoists.
Colossal definitely does not paint the modern male in positive colors… but then, even if Gloria does do the right thing in the end, the only thing that truly separates her from the other egoists in the movie is a moral compass that the others lack — for much of the movie, she's an egotistical jerk herself, if one driven by a drinking problem. She only truly begins to change after she finds out her odd connection to the mega-monster trampling Seoul.
Wrongly sold as a comedy when it came out, it is hardly surprising that this intriguing and oddly thought-provoking movie was a flop: anyone who could get past the weird premise and went expecting to see a quirky rom com, got anything but. This is a truly serious movie, populated by (other than the monsters) realistic characters not viewed through rose-colored glasses. True, Gloria does manage to untangle herself from a trap which, in real life, way too many women are caught in, but even her victory is not permitted to remain a feel-good ending celebrating self-empowerment. Instead, it is undermined by a truly simple question posed by a Korean barmaid.
Quirky but serious, Colossal is the type of movie that gives marketing men nightmares because it fits too many shoes and none at all. That alone makes it worth viewing. One thing for sure, we definitely want to check out some of Nacho Vigalondo's earlier Spanish movies, as both Time Crimes (2007 / trailer) and Extraterrestrial (2011 / trailer) sound equally quirky.

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