A rare treat today. When I woke up, I had never heard of Colossal. A few hours later, I was one of the first people in Winnipeg to watch the film. Needless to say, I knew absolutely nothing about the film when I walked into the theatre. The thing is, though, that I knew almost nothing about the film when I walked out.
Colossal, an indie flick written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is almost impossible to describe (at least, without giving too much away). The film stars Anne Hathaway as Gloria, an online journalist who’s been struggling with life and getting drunk a little too often (then waking up with no memory of what happened the night before). Her British boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), finally has enough and throws her out. With nowhere else to go, she returns to her home town and the house of her late parents. Soon after her arrival, she bumps into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a close friend from her childhood who has stayed in town and now owns his father’s bar, and Oscar offers her a job as a waitress.
So what’s the problem with describing this film, you ask. It sounds like an old-fashioned romance, maybe even a quirky romantic comedy. Yeah, well, quirky would certainly be an accurate term. You see, this description is early on, before a giant monster starts walking around in Seoul, Korea, knocking down buildings and killing people (and consuming all the world’s news media). Soon, the monster will be joined by a giant robot, who doesn’t get along with the monster and does even more damage. So what the heck, you ask, do these giant creatures in Seoul have to do with Gloria and Oscar in small-town USA? Don’t ask. Because the plot involving those creatures is so utterly ludicrous that it seems like something a couple of elementary school kids might make up after school.
If Colossal is viewed literally (i.e. if the plot involving those creatures, which are part of the film from beginning to end, is taken seriously), then this film is a bizarre mess that should be thrown in the dumpster. (spoiler alert) But it is very obvious that Colossal actually operates at a level where the role of those creatures has little to do with what we are watching unfold in Seoul, and this film is really a remarkable metaphor, satire or exposé of life among thirty-somethings in the 21st century. And that is way too much information - sorry about that (at least I gave away very little of the plot).
Hathaway is marvellous as the lost Gloria and Sudeikis is perfectly cast (and does a great job) as Oscar, whose personality changes every few minutes (something Sudeikis seems to do effortlessly). The score is as unusual as the film, and clearly meant to play a key role, though I wasn’t always sure what it was trying to convey. The cinematography was more than adequate.
What amazed me most of all as I sat in the empty theatre wondering what the heck was going on, was that I was so enthralled that when this 110-minute film came to end, I thought maybe 80 minutes had passed. That’s a very good sign, as is the fact that I immediately wished I had someone to talk with about what I’d just seen (and I mean a long discussion). Janelle wasn’t interested in watching Colossal because she had heard it was a very dark, intense psychological thriller, which is not her thing. I’m not saying that description is false, but I do think it’s misleading, because Colossal is not like any psychological thriller I’ve ever seen before, and it’s nowhere near as dark and intense as most psychological thrillers I watch.
The ending could be a serious problem, but only, I think, if we watch the film in a way that we really can’t watch it. Just watch it. I’m giving Colossal a very solid ***+. If I get to discuss it with someone someday, it may even get ****. My mug is up.