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Colossal

Review:

Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, a washed-up alcoholic living in New York. Her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), fed up with her constant tardiness, packs away her belongings in suitcases and tells her to leave. She decides to return to her hometown and move into the house her departed parents left behind. Once there, she bumps into Oscar (Jason Sudekis) her best friend from school, who now runs a bar in town.

That night she ends up having a few drinks with Oscar and his two assistants, Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson), back at his bar. After she wakes up the next morning in the children’s play area of the local park - struggling to recall everything that happened the previous night - she reads the news on the internet and discovers that a huge monster rampaged through Seoul in South Korea nine hours ago. A moment later Oscar pays her a visit and claims that, in her drunken daze, she agreed to take up a bar job in exchange for his help in getting her back on her feet.

After a further night’s drinking at Oscar’s bar she again wakes up in the same spot in the park and scratches her head in befuddlement. Later on, she discovers that the monster in Seoul has reappeared, but this time is captured on video scratching its own head in a suspiciously similar manner to herself. She soon works out that the creature is somehow being summoned and placed under her control when she is in that part of the park at 8:05 am. Realising the devastation she is causing on the other side of the world, she tries to bring the creature - and the alcoholism that brings her to this spot in the park each morning - under control. However, matters become more complicated when Oscar himself realises he can summon a giant robot via the same method.

Colossal is a rather intriguing black comedy which combines indie movie sensibilities with monster movie spectacle, in a sort of macrocosm-made-flesh manner. The monsters that appear are the incarnations of the darker sides of both Gloria’s and Oscar’s respective characters; just as both human personalities cause destruction and chaos in their immediate surrounding relationships, the monsters cause destruction and chaos in Seoul. Imagine Lorenz’s “butterfly effect”, only with played-out consequences that are far more immediate and direct.

The film works well thanks to its ability to draw laugh-out-loud moments from its premise (in particular from the fact that Oscar is a diametric opposite to Gloria, in that he’s rather unashamed of his monstrous incarnation), and from the fine performances by Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudekis. Hathaway nails the semi-somnambulant, energy-sapped feel of a compulsive alcoholic extremely well, while still retaining an unpretentious charm that makes it easy to see how one could end up becoming buxom drinking buddies with her. Sudekis, on the other hand, starts out as a solid, brotherly guy, but then reveals himself to be something quite different. He pulls off the shift in an unnervingly convincing manner.

As enjoyable as it is, Colossal isn’t perfect. Gloria’s estranged boyfriend Tim (as played by Dan Stevens) is portrayed as a rather one-note stiffly arrogant upper-class English chap who heavily signals “I’m the character she will ultimately know better than to get back together with at the end”. Another character is introduced to function as a potential new romantic interest for Gloria, but ultimately he’s a rather passive inclusion into the story and would have been better written out entirely. Fans of popcorn-munching blockbusters might also be disappointed that the CGI monster scenes take up only a few fleeting moments of screen time; the budget was reportedly just $15 million and, while it has been as well-spent as it plausibly could have been, it feels like it could have been doubled or tripled to make the monster sequences that bit more impactful.

Still, Colossal should be commended for its originality and emotionally-intelligent narrative. It’s much more rewarding than most of the usual bloated Hollywood spectacles that litter cinema schedules at this time of year. It would be surprising if it didn’t become a cult favourite in years to come.

Runtime: 109 mins

Dir: Nacho Vigalondo

Script: Nacho Vigalondo

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudekis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens

Rating: ☆☆☆☆

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