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Film Review: Colossal (2017)

SYNOPSIS:

Gloria is an out-of-work girl who, after getting kicked out of her apartment by her boyfriend, is forced to leave her life in New York and move back to her hometown. When news reports surface that a giant creature is destroying Seoul, South Korea, Gloria gradually comes to the realization that she is somehow connected to this far-off phenomenon. As events begin to spin out of control, Gloria must determine why her seemingly insignificant existence has such a colossal effect on the fate of the world.

REVIEW:

Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens.

Oh boy, does Gloria (Anne Hathaway) have problems. She has no money, no job, and no place to live after her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) kicks her out of the apartment they share in NYC. It seems that she drinks too much, and basically doesn’t take responsibility for anything she does, and he’s just tired of it. Gloria doesn’t have many options left to her, so she goes back to her hometown, and places herself inside of a vacant family rental home. While walking home with an inflatable mattress, she bumps into her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who just happens to own the local bar. Eventually the two of them end up talking about old times, and heartily drinking beer. And after a few days, Oscar offers Gloria a job as a bar waitress, which she immediately accepts. Gloria’s days are spent taking bar orders during the day, and having drunken conversations in the evening with Oscar, and his two friends Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson).

But things take an unusual turn after Gloria wakes up with a serious hangover, and turns on the TV. She sees that a colossal monster has appeared out of nowhere in South Korea, and is wreaking havoc. But it disappears as suddenly as it appears, leaving the populace laden with fear as to when it might return. And it does return, repeatedly. But Gloria begins to notice certain aspects of the creature’s sudden appearances are the same. She eventually discovers that if she’s in a local playground at exactly 8:05 pm, the monster will appear on the other side of the globe, and mimic every move she makes. Gloria also realizes that as she battles her own personal demons, the monster has to contend with a demon of its own – in the form of a giant robot that suddenly materializes right next to it.

So yeah, Colossal is a pretty weird movie.

Let’s get the good news out of the way first. Writer/Director Nacho Vigalondo is one of the more daring filmmakers out there today, and Colossal proves it. At times, the concept becomes really silly, but rather than try to distract his audience from the inherent madness of his script, he embraces it, and brings the audience into the madness with reckless abandon. But he never forgets the serious aspects of the script either, and he utilizes Sudeikis brilliantly to convey how serious the situation really is. You might expect his character to be the same kind of role that you’ve seen him in before (The trailer for Colossal certainly makes it feel like his role is a comedic one), but he really displays some depth that I didn’t think he was capable of here. Oscar starts out as what I thought to be the love interest in the film, but not only does that not pan out, it turns out he’s actually a really dark & sinister character. I’ve never seen Sudeikis in a role like this, and I personally can’t wait to see him in more serious roles now. He’s seriously good here. Hathaway also does a great job of making the audience dislike her intensely for awhile, and then slowly get them on her side as she discovers more and more about what’s happening in her wacky life. Gloria’s initial indifference eventually turns into a steely resolve that’s both entertaining and believable. And she’s still cute as a button to boot – you just have to love her.

Vigalondo is wise enough to know that despite having these two great characters on screen, the money shots belong to the creature. If it doesn’t look believable (or as least as believable as a giant monster can look), then the film is gonna fail. The creature design is both imposing and goofy at the same time. There are moments where the creature is genuinely scary looking, and then it’ll do something silly like scratch its head, or do a silly little dance. It becomes a really endearing creature during these moments, you just wanna dance along with him. The giant robot is impressive looking as well, but its design is very generic. It’s cool and very shiny too, but I’ve seen similar looking robots in various anime films over the years.

But now I have to discuss what I didn’t like about Colossal. As imaginative and funny as it is, it falls prey to a middle section where the focus is on people, and not on the giant monsters. Understandably, that’s the film that Vigalondo set out to make, Colossal is more of a dramedy than a Kaiju fest for sure. But there are some really dull stretches in the extremely talky middle of the film. Admittedly, this is where the characters really become fleshed out (Sudeikis is especially good here), and all of the talk ties into the finale. But I found it to be a bit too talky, and eventually a bit on the dull side. I actually caught myself beginning to nod off a few times during the middle of the film, and while I never did fall completely asleep, a film as unique as this one shouldn’t have taken me anywhere near nap time.

The finale is pretty special, and the final shot of Hathaway’s face is pretty special too. Colossal is a lot funnier than you might expect, but it’s also a lot more serious than you might expect as well. It walks a very thin line between drama, comedy, and monster movie, and while it might falter a bit at times – it never collapses under the weight of its ambition. It’s definitely not what you think it is, and it definitely isn’t for everyone. But Colossal still stands out because of its fierce originality, its outstanding performances, and its terrific special effects. Even if it isn’t your kind of film, it deserves your attention because of its uniqueness.

Colossal – 3 out of 5 Shrouds.

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