Note: I am bound my obligation to review this film, but I also want to stress that Colossal should be experienced fresh, with as little before-hand knowledge as possible. The less you know about this movie, the more amazed you will be by it. I have tried to avoid major spoilers, but my advice is to see the movie first and then come back and read this review.
“It’s like a fucking Wes Anderson movie in here.”
How’s this for a set-up: Anne Hathaway is a writer with a heavy drinking problem who discovers she has a psychic connection to a giant Godzilla-like monster in Seoul. Sounds kind of weird and quirky, doesn’t it? It is. But Colossal, from director Nacho Vigalondo, has a lot more on its mind than quirk. What Vigalondo has created is the perfect allegory for the dreadful events surrounding “Gamergate”, and a rumination on misogyny in general.
Hathaway plays Gloria, a magazine writer who has a rather severe drinking problem. Constantly partying and boozing to blackout proportions, Gloria gets booted from her New York apartment by her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), who is sick of dealing with her issues. She picks up and moves back to her hometown, where she runs into childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Oscar owns a bar and seems, at first, to be a lovable dope. The kind of clueless but sweet guy that Gloria is destined to discover true feelings for and live happily ever after with.
But that’s not what happens.
Instead, a giant Kaiju-like monster appears over Seoul one day and wrecks havoc. That’s weird enough, but things get even weirder when Gloria watches footage of the monster on TV and sees it mimicking a nervous tic she has, where she scratches the top of her head when she’s feeling awkward. After some amateur investigating, Gloria discovers that she has the power to control the monster’s movements. It’s a power she abuses at first before quickly learning the error of her ways. Unfortunately, Oscar also finds out about Gloria’s power. And that’s when things get nasty.
The casting of Sudeikis is rather brilliant, in a sneaky way. Sudeikis can easily play the charming, likable rom-com lead (see Sleeping With Other People). But he can also play kind of a creepy jerk (see also Sleeping With Other People). Vigalondo uses that to the film’s advantage, as it’s slowly revealed that even though Oscar thinks he’s one of the “good guys”, he’s actually a controlling, abusive asshole. You know, kind of like every single cry-baby idiot at the front of the Gamergate “movement.” Eventually Oscar finds a way to trap Gloria in an abusive relationship of sorts, and Gloria is utterly powerless. That’s the cruel irony of the set-up: Gloria has the power to control a Godzilla-sized monster, but she’s completely helpless to stop a bully like Oscar.
Hathaway is wonderful here, bringing a goofy charm masking an inner sadness. This is an award-caliber performance, confirming yet again that Hathaway is a great actress who deserves her accolades. It’s almost as if the actress has transported her addict character from Rachel Getting Married into a weirdo genre film. Sudeikis is also strong, and at times downright scary. It’s the type of part that completely changes your perception of an actor.
There’s a darkness to Colossal that I think is going to catch some people off-guard. The film starts on a light, almost frothy note, before venturing down unpleasant roads. But the end result is a more rewarding, and surprising film. There’s a message of empowerment here; that sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and stand up to abusive bullies, consequences be damned. Even if those consequences involve some mass destruction.
A version of this review originally appeared on September 15, 2016.