Finally! I’ve been trying to see this movie for about a month, now. I’m a fan of both Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway (her portrayal of Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises is every bit as spot-on as any other comic book-character performance ever has been), and the premise of the film sounded interesting and unique. I definitely went out of my way to see it, today, when I didn’t really have the time to do so. That should speak to my desire to catch it while I had the chance.
I’m so glad I did. Colossal is one of those independent films that has wide appeal, but a small marketing budget. I’m not going to get into the specifics of the story, as that’s better left discovered as one watches, but the narrative at its core is that a giant monster appears in Seoul, South Korea, and down-on-her-luck Gloria (Hathaway) from New York City comes to the realization that it’s somehow connected to her.
On the surface, Colossal is a four-quadrant-appealing science-fiction dramedy with a high entertainment factor and lots of fun to be had. And, if the viewer chooses, they can see the film as that and nothing more. But how shortsighted that would be, because there is a plethora of subtleties existing between the lines and underneath the surface of this film.
Colossal functions as a parable about irresponsible alcohol use. It also works as a deconstruction of the entitled male who feels he is owed female companionship because he’s nice and polite. And it also serves as an illustration of the idea that we are all responsible for our own lives and the life we live is the life that we choose. There is a lot of substance to this film and while some of it is less subtle than other aspects, it’s all worth telling and it flows organically. Nothing is forced, nothing is beating the audience over the head, and it all plays out very naturally.
Mixed in with all of this is the fun science-fiction component that’s not quite like anything I’ve seen before. It’s certainly reminiscent of the Japanese Kaiju films, but with an added element, here, and an added twist, there. The story is pleasantly unpredictable without ever becoming gimmicky. Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo elegantly avoids tropes and clichés, making a quirky film feel very earnest and relatable. There are moments of lightheartedness, but I would hesitate to call it a comedy. This is a thoughtful, well-meaning film with a point to make, and Vigalondo refuses to allow said point to get lost among a lot of extra-curricular activities or slapstick, just to get a few laughs. If it doesn’t contribute to the film, as a whole, then it isn’t in there. Vigalondo utilizes very efficient storytelling techniques, much to the film’s benefit.
Colossal rests firmly upon the shoulders of Hathaway and Sudeikis. Hathaway, as always, is splendid – fully grasping the fact that acting is a subtle art form. Truly great acting performances lie in the small moments – the fine detail – and she is a master of the little things. The role doesn’t push her to her limits, but Gloria is a very complex character and Hathaway handles the delicate balance of her disparate and maturing personality traits with the ease of an auteur.
Playing Gloria’s childhood friend, Oscar, Jason Sudeikis gives his best performance to date, showing that he’s capable of more than just comedy. As complex as Gloria is, Oscar is at least her equal in that regard and Sudeikis is required to go places that no other role has ever taken him. And he excels. He may have gotten just a little hammy at the film’s climax, but that would be the only time; otherwise, he turns in a supremely excellent performance that could very well open some doors for him, elsewhere in Hollywood.
Speaking of the film’s climax, while I won’t speak of the events that occur, I will state that the ending is clever, natural, and very satisfying. The more fantastic events of the film get the requisite pseudo-science explanation, and that’s all they need. The movie isn’t about the literal monster in Seoul. The metaphor at the heart of the film is what matters and it and the characters are extremely well-served. I found myself completely invested in everything that was occurring during the film and surprised at nearly every turn of events, despite thinking afterwards that there were no other logical ways for the narrative to proceed. Along the way, Vigalondo exquisitely navigates the special effects around his limited budget. Whereas many would see that budget as a limitation, Vigalondo instead uses it to place the emphasis on the characters and make the audience feel everything through them. The way he handles it is simply genius. Colossal is compelling, intelligent, and heartfelt and is a must-see for any self-professed film-lover.
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