A beast of a thousand faces, Colossal is Hathaway’s finest work in years. Vigalondo has created a monstrously good movie.
It’s true to say that Spanish writer/director Nacho Vigalondo’s wonderfully weird Colossal is a monster movie; it’s just that our understanding of who or what that monster is shifts constantly.
At first, we’re led to believe it might be Gloria, Anne Hathaway doing her finest work since Rachel Getting Married, a burning out party girl who enjoys the booze a little too much and is subsequently kicked out of her swish New York pad by her churlishly unforgiving boyfriend Tim, Beauty and the Beast and Legion star Dan Stevens.
As she slinks away upstate to the sprawling, spartan house owned and left empty by her absent parents, Gloria’s on track to hit rock bottom but in denial, with alcohol the real beast. It’s not overly helpful, then, that she falls back in with estranged childhood friend Oscar (an at-first typecast Jason Sudeikis), picking up shifts in his struggling bar that’s mostly frequented by mates Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson).
Oscar clearly has an unrequited crush on Gloria but in truth, despite a hipsterish set-up, she doesn’t seem particularly interested in romance at all, though there’s a certain sexual chemistry with the gormless Joel that antagonises Oscar, prodding the brute of toxic masculinity.
And then there’s the very literal reading, Colossal’s most intriguing, though not it’s most powerful, demon. Viaglondo’s smartly feminist parable draws a parallel between the crummy men in Gloria’s life and the small matter of a gargantuan Godzilla-like leviathan terrorising the South Korean capital Seoul then vanishing into the ether.
Initially failing to notice news reports of its destructive rampages, the film’s most telling line comes when Gloria, slowly awakening from her hungover stupor, reflects sadly that because of its non-western location, the world will soon move on from its internet-fuelled, awestruck horror.
Coming to realise she shares an uncanny bond with said creature, just as Gloria grasps the import of her actions, clearing her mind and empowering herself to act accordingly, what at first was a kooky indie comedy spliced with a whacky Power Rangers premise grows gradually bleaker, exacerbated with Tim follows her north. As repressed remembrance rises and history repeats, with monstrous male ego unleashed falls the shadow of abuse and the brutal reality that most perpetrators of violence against women are known to them.
An executive producer, Hathaway championed the chameleon-like nature of Colossal and her monumental performance matches its shifting evolution, flitting from Devil Wears Prada to something far darker, with Sudeikis also cut free from his cuddly critter chrysalis.
Indeed, Vigalondo’s gleeful genre-mashing casts the movie itself as something of a Frankenstein’s monster, stitched from the carcasses of other beings and given life by a lightning strike of electric imagination, illuminating some very sharp gender politics indeed.
Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords