Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has fallen and can’t get up. The spunky online writer with a blunt haircut lost her job in New York and can’t muster enough self-worth to pursue another one. She proceeds to lose boyfriend and home, forcing her to escape to her parents’ unrented vacant house in her small hometown.
This girl is obviously hooked on getting by. When her neck aches from sleeping on the floor, she gets an air mattress. When she meets childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), she takes up the part-time waitressing job he offers, even though it will exacerbate her drinking problem. Because you know, life.
But life has other plans for her. As she settles into a routine, a Godzilla-scale monster appears in Seoul, stomping around before disappearing into thin air. The story hooks her. Her new bar friends join in. Why does the monster not look down if it wants to destroy the area? Why is it only appearing in Seoul? Why does it do aimless and oddly humanistic gestures?
These casual observations speak greatly of Nacho Vigalondo’s writing and his unpretentious Colossal creation. The film’s relatability comes from the fact that director and writer placed his focus on ordinary folks. These are not army officials and biological experts; these are folks at a bar throwing questions we regular folks will fuss over. Yet within these innocent questions, the director drops candid truths: one character confesses how if the monster continues to only appear in Seoul, then the rest of the world will eventually stop caring. The social commentary here is so casual and non-philosophical, it’s refreshing.
As Vigalondo trickles hints on how the two stories on each side of the world connect, the audience’s realisation will come at different points. But when the undeniable truth comes, it’s impactful, filled with bewilderment and nervous laughter. Without giving away too much, there’s plenty of refreshing twists that justifies this film as the sleeper hit in 2016 when it was first released.
Colossal may seem ludicrous, and with its spare and sketchy effects, it seems to go against the current of efforts these days to go bigger and better. But it works because all the parallels seem more like an unfortunate coincidence than a contrived plot point. This subverts the entire “buffed to a shine” finish that audience will no doubt have grown used to. Even with all the underlying themes of addiction, abuse and identity, this film is never self-important. And that’s a breath of fresh air in this saturated climate of activism and expert opinions.
As the story pivots on its heels and turns bum-seeking-second-chance to how-to-save-Seoul-and-soul, the audience will revel in the twisted ride Vigalondo has conjured as it randomly shifts gears. Right up to the very end, Hathaway’s transformation easily derives sympathy, especially after the appearance of a very unexpected villain. You’ll facepalm at her mistakes, gasp when she notices a familiar trait in the monster, then cheer when she owns her decisions, before laughing at a punchline that drops when the credits roll. Colossal defies genre-classification and expectations, and is all the better for it.
This “down-and-out finds purpose” story is serves candid humour, bewildering twists and witty scripting. Cheers to that!
First published: www.movieXclusive.com