In Colossal, an unemployed party girl named Gloria (Anne Hathaway) loses her New York boyfriend, absconds to her hick hometown and then slowly discovers that a series of terrible monster attacks in Seoul, South Korea are somehow directly linked to her drunken behavior. Cinema lovers often lament a lack of original storytelling in Hollywood. With Colossal, by God, writer and director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) has delivered an antidote.
Gloria’s concerns are both tragic and ordinary: She’s a talented writer (let’s just assume), but she lacks ambition and focus. It’s dumb and sad to find yourself a single woman in your thirties with nothing to show for it, but there are a lot of us out there. Usually, our dismal failures are of no consequence, and that almost makes it worse. Yet for Gloria, when she hurls her cell phone across a playground at eight in the morning after a night of drinking, across the globe in South Korea, a monster shows up out of nowhere performing the same movements, and the world is aghast. The monster crushes buildings with its giant feet and people are dying!
Charmingly, Colossal defies easy genre classification. We start out in the realm of romantic comedy: Uh oh, Gloria’s mean British boyfriend (Dan Stevens) won’t let her party in his expensive apartment anymore. Time to start over back home and possibly meet a new fella? Enter Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a friend from high school who owns the local bar and champs at the bit to help Gloria get settled. Her parents have conveniently exited the script and left Gloria a giant, rent-free house. There’s a hole in the inflatable mattress. She goes to bed at dawn and wakes up deflated on the floor in the afternoon. The Mattress gag is pretty funny, but don’t get too caught up in the movie magic; some people have even realer problems.
Oscar’s got a couple of sidekicks that help run the bar: They are Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and the handsome, somewhat dim-witted Joel (Austin Stowell). Before long, the four of them have created an after hours drinking circle that’s meant to be a pathetic cry from her old life in NYC. But small town culture has its moments, and they seem to be having an okay time.
Then the trouble starts in Seoul, and now we’ve got a monster movie on our hands. The film has a lot of fun with imagining how the world would react to such inexplicable events on social media. Scientists are baffled, the laws of time and space have been irrevocably compromised, and the potential for YouTube parodies and funny memes are endless.
Colossal has a few dumb plot holes that require a healthy suspension of disbelief, and I’m not talking about the monster. There’s a beast on the loose and people are just hanging out in the danger zone waiting to get stomped on? I doubt it. And I wish the script had stopped short of trying to explain the phenomenon with dumb magic. The explanation’s trite and boring, and anyway, we don’t need it.
Still, Colossal works because the monster is more than a gimmick; it’s a tool to explore Gloria’s wounded psyche and the troubled men she surrounds herself with. Movies make anything possible, and this one exploits that fact to the fullest.
This is Sudeikis’s best role to date. His character turns in ways you don’t see coming, and Hathaway is perfect as ever playing a character both comedic and touchingly flawed. Finally, the film’s last shot is hands down my favorite punch line of 2017.