****THIS IS A SPOILER FREE REVIEW!!! THIS REVIEW CONTAINS ZERO SPOILERS!!!****
Estimated Reading Time : 4 minutes 37 seconds
My Rating : 3.5 out of 5 stars
My Recommendation : SEE IT. See it in the theatre in order to encourage studios to make more films like this!
Colossal, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, is a black comedy about Gloria, an unemployed, alcoholic writer who leaves New York city and returns to her suburban childhood home as a means of last resort, when all of a sudden a giant monster starts attacking Seoul, South Korea. Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, with Jason Sudeikis playing her hometown friend Oscar.
Colossal is a strange, original, smart, unique and ultimately insightful film that is a worthwhile storytelling venture. Writer/Director Vigalondo masterfully weaves together a story about alcoholism, misogyny, monsters, personal demons and psychological/spiritual healing to create an intriguing and ultimately satisfying movie.
Colossal is not a monster movie, not really, the monster is a secondary device to mine the inner turmoil of Gloria, and is a metaphor for her alcoholism/psychological scars. It is impossibly clever that writer/director Vigalondo has the monster attack Seoul, or less succinctly, SOUL. It is Gloria's soul/Seoul that is under assault. Her self loathing and self-destructive behavior are born out of being a pawn, or barbie doll, in a male dominated world that is cruel, hurtful and monstrous.
Hathaway is a polarizing actress, a lot of people spew a great deal of vitriol at her for her public persona. I have no opinion on her as a person, but I will say she does very good work in Colossal. Hathaway's Gloria, like Hathaway herself, smiles maybe a bit too much and seems pretty self-absorbed and disingenuous a lot of the time, which is actually a masterful way to bring the character to life. In a bit of notable artistic courage, Hathaway embraces Gloria's physical and emotional messiness, and allows herself to look her absolutely worst, which is something not every actress would do. Hathaway's Gloria (like Hathaway herself) is very likable in her unlikability, and that is entirely a credit to the actresses charm and skill.
Jason Sudeikis does a surprisingly solid job as Gloria's childhood classmate Oscar. Sudeikis is a funny guy, and he is funny here, but never too funny, which makes his Oscar a totally believable human being and keeps the film grounded. Sudeikis is the polar opposite of Hathaway in that most people generally like him, and as Oscar he uses his inherent likability to lure the audience onto his side to terrific effect.
Both Hathaway and Sudeikis commit fully to the rather absurd scenario the film lays out for them, which makes the audience never question the legitimacy or veracity of the story as it unfolds. In some way, Colossal reminded me of the brilliant absurdist film from last year The Lobster, in regards to its rather quirky premise. Colossal isn't nearly as good as The Lobster, but it is still an interesting, entertaining and worthwhile film.
The film may have resonated with me personally because, like Gloria, I too am an alcoholic (unlike Gloria I have a quarter century of sobriety under my belt) and have lots of demons and monsters dwelling inside me that occasionally rear their head to destroy large cities. Colossal expertly captures the relentless cycle of bad decisions and self-immolations that the alcoholic goes through while under the spell of that tantalizing Dionysian nectar. It also wonderfully captures the discomfort those around the alcoholic feel when he/she attempts to stop drinking. Even those who want the drunk to stop boozing are thrown for a loop when they finally do, and seeing that in Colossal rang particularly true for me. It is a common occurrence that people want YOU to change, but they don't want THINGS to change….which, of course, is impossible.
As a psychological exercise, Colossal is pretty marvelous, using a monster attacking Seoul and all the events that follow that bizarre occurrence as a way to tell the story of a woman's struggle to come to grips with her psychological and emotional wounds is a brilliant idea. And it is important to note that this is a WOMAN'S story, as it shows the carnage and soul crushing and suffocating damage men inflict upon the women they claim to love. Much like last years A Monster Calls, Colossal makes a monster movie the way it should be made, as a personal, intimate tale that reveals larger truths, in this instance, the personal experience of a woman trying to survive in a man's world.
Colossal is not a perfect movie, it has its flaws and its occasional sloppiness, but it is an ingenious film that tells a peculiar yet important story. As an alcoholic I can tell you that Anne Hathaway's performance in the final shot of the film is as good as it gets in portraying what life is like living with that affliction. Hope, fear and cold, hard reality all smack you in the face at once when you have reached the mountaintop only to realize you must climb all the way back down again in order to live life on terra firma. Just when you think the battle is won, you realize it hasn't even started yet.
Whether you're a degenerate drunken booze hound or a teetotaling church goer, Colossal is worth seeing in order to watch what it is like to have your own personal monster projected out there for all the world to see. It is a superbly smart and psychologically relevant film that tells the truth, even when it lies. I recommend you spend your hard earned dollars to see it in the theatre, you never know, the Seoul you save, could be your own.