Nacho Vigalondo, director & script
Starring: Anne Hathaway (Gloria), Jason Sudeikis (Oscar), Dan Stevens (Tim), Austin Stowell (Joel), Tim Blake Nelson (Garth)
Imagine that you were a Hollywood producer and an impassioned Spaniard gave you this elevator pitch: A hard drinking would-be writer returns to her hometown where she discovers that if she walks on a certain part of a playground at 8:05 in the morning, her Godzilla-like and very real avatar will wreak havoc on Seoul, South Korea. When she tells her best childhood friend, he follows her and sends his avatar, a huge robot, to Seoul, too. But nobody else can do it.
What would you say? Sleep it off, buddy? Or—hey, great idea, I think we can finance this if we get Anne Hathaway to take the lead?
It turns out that a quintet of producers got together with Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo and Anne Hathaway (who also has a producer’s credit on it) and Colossal was spawned. Surprisingly enough, it’s actually a funny and very dark film about relationships (this is a Hathaway movie after all), the lives of quirky American characters and, above all, why it’s a good idea to leave your supposedly idyllic small town for the big city. It’s also the best Godzilla film I’ve seen in years.
Colossal shows once again that Hathaway is best when she’s cast against type. Anne Hathaway is not only lovely, her beauty is manifested in a particularly healthy uncomplicated American way. That’s why she was perfect for the lead role in The Princess Diaries and could be so wonderful playing off of Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada. But it also meant that she could be awfully bland in films like Bride Wars and Being Jane, where she isn’t being challenged by her role or the story. Her biggest critical success is still in Rachel Getting Married, where she’s a moving train wreck throughout the film.
In Colossal, Hathaway gets to play Gloria, an out of control drunk, who can’t write or keep her relationship with an ultra-successful British boyfriend together. Hathaway sinks into the role, looking blank and morose much of the time, as if she has to continually quell her demons. Gloria attempts to be charming but Hathaway signals through her hesitant demeanour that she is straining to present herself that way. A quiet desperation seems to be her habitual persona.
Going back home, Gloria is still self-destructive until her best pal from childhood, Oscar, attempts to come to the rescue. But as a hard-drinking owner of a bar, who quickly employs her as a waitress, he clearly has issues, too. It’s fascinating to see Hathaway’s Gloria play off Jason Sudeikis’ Oscar. Mainly known as a comic, Sudeikis has to achieve what many other comedians from Charlie Chaplin to Jackie Gleason to Bill Murray have done: figure out how to command attention while playing deeply within a character. Sudeikis is moving and scary as someone who is trying to be good despite deep personal issues.
Colossal has flaws. Time in this story is truly wonky. Too many hard-drinking adults find it easy to be relatively sober at 8 in the morning. Bars are filled at night looking what are effectively reruns of what the monsters have done to Seoul earlier in the day. Hathaway and Sudeikis struggle to remain a key past event although it surely would have been a major moment in their young lives. But it is a quite original film. Should you see Colossal? It won’t rock your world, but this odd production may well become one of the more intriguing films of the year.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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