21 May 2017

Colossal Review

In the vein of recent sleeper hits such as The Lobster (2015) and The One I Love (2014) - intimate dramas disguised through a layer of absurdism - Nacho Vigalondo's Colossal is the latest film to follow suit through combining the heartfelt indie genre with the horror monster movie. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an unemployed writer living an erratic life in New York of partying and boozing, until boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) decides he's hit the boiling point of this unpredictable behaviour and dumps her, forcing Gloria to return to her quiet suburban hometown in Middle America.

This is where she reconnects with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend who now runs his late father's bar. He offers Gloria a job to help her back on her feet, and this is the chance she needs; an opportunity to quit drinking, to earn a living, to turn her life around. For Gloria, this is a life-changing moment. So naturally, that's when she learns of a giant kaiju attacking Seoul, and what's worse is it seems to be mimicking the actions she performs in a small playground.

In many ways, the opening of Colossal echoes that of Edgar Wright's 2004 horror comedy Shaun of the Dead, where a quirky down-on-their-luck protagonist goes through the stages of self-reflection and is thrust into a supernatural event that will change them as a person. In a somewhat powerful metaphor for how the actions of an individual affect a greater populace, Gloria soon realises her inadvertent responsibility for the citizens of Seoul through her avatar on the other side of the world.


Not only does Colossal tackle themes of alcoholism, but also delivers a strong feminist message. Gloria is surrounded by monsters not only on a large scale, but also with the men in her life. From the very beginning, we see exactly how the relationship between her and Tim is toxic and borderline abusive. Oscar, on the other hand, is warm and charming. He welcomes Gloria into his enchanting world, and her past relationships cause her to doubt the men she associates with. Are they romantic ploys, gestures of goodwill or a cause for greater concern?

With great performances follow great praise. Anne Hathaway cements the role of Gloria perfectly, playing her on a spectrum between deadpan and lovably goofy. Sudeikis, on the other hand, is alluring and eases us during the more uncomfortable scenes of the beginning act, but he also harbours a face for the more serious moments.

Don't be fooled by the marketing campaigns pushing this film as a comedy or monster movie. It has its moments, sure - there's even a gag that just gets internet culture right in way other films fail - but at its heart lies a sincere drama about abusive relationships and toxic masculinity. Much like 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016) or Monsters (2010), it's the characters that drive the story not the kaiju.
If you want to watch the best feminist film of the year, seeing Anne Hathaway fight off abusive men and be a kickass giant monster will certainly float your boat. Colossal is a clever disruption of both the kaiju film and the quirky indie comedy - two genres that are on opposite ends of the spectrum - and will entertain you no matter where you fall on that line.

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