SXSW Movie Review: ‘COLOSSAL’ – a singular brand of destruction and comedy

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James Cole Clay // Film Critic

COLOSSAL
Rated R, 110 minutes.
Director: Nacho Vigalando
Cast: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Austin Stowell, Dan Stevens and Tim Blake Nelson

When you hear the phrase, “the Anne Hathaway Godzilla movie,” what do you do? Hopefully run to the theater as fast as possible, because this is a film that blends genre craziness with a twist to bring audiences something they’ve never seen.

Nacho Vigalondo (Open Windows) has made his most complete work since he delivered one of the greatest time-traveling films ever in Timecrimes. The inherent silliness of Colossal makes the most of the absurd premise and adds to the ante with thoughtful execution.

Going into this film, all you really know is it stars Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis and Dan Stevens — and the film’s log-line, which reads, “A woman discovers that severe catastrophic events are somehow connected to the mental breakdown from which she’s suffering.”

I was suspicious I may love this movie, but didn’t realize how dark, twisted and heartfelt a Vigalondo film could be. He’s working on a bigger level here with big stars and a budget to handle such high-concepts, with a splash of arthouse humor. This film has it all.

I know I didn’t want to be spoiled on the plotting of Colossal, so you’ve been warned starting below.

Gloria (Hathaway) has just been dumped by her boyfriend Tim (Stevens). She’s kicked out of their NYC apartment due to her one too many late nights of boozing. On the verge of a nervous breakdown and addled by substance abuse, Gloria heads back home to her small midwest town where she commandeers her parents old home and tries to start anew.

By happenstance she runs into an old high school pal, Oscar (Sudeikis), who owns a grimy dive bar and gives Gloria a job. While these two are forming a bond, a giant kaiju monster attacks Seoul every night, which is weirdly mirroring Gloria’s actions as she drunkenly stumbles around a small park. This story makes world news, sending Earth into a tailspin.

After a few tests Gloria discovers the monster mirrors several of her own mannerisms. Yes, she is indeed the monster in question. Don’t ask for explanations; just accept the fact and move on because with Vigalondo you’re in good hands.

Star of COLOSSAL Anne Hathaway dancing for a very particular (and funny) reason.

Anne Hathaway’s Gloria dancing for a very particular and funny reason. Courtesy of Neon.

Hathaway and Sudeikis have palpable onscreen chemistry through all the strange behavior their characters subject themselves to. It’s easy to see there was a lot of trust between Vigalondo and his actors. You haven’t seen Sudeikis like this before, as he gets away from the big-budget studio comedy formula. And Hathaway gives some of the most compelling work in her career.

Underneath the high-concepts and, at times, hilariously executed scenes of destruction is a small story about people just trying to rebuild and find love of any kind amid the self-inflicted turmoil in their lives. The best aspect about Colossal is its commitment to the material. At one point, the film is flipped on its back and never turns around to renegotiate its plot. We see characters deal with petty jealousy and unresolved emotions that manifest themselves in the destruction of Seoul. A lot of people die, but when you’re 10,000 miles away the consequences seem minimal.

This is a confident work from a filmmaker that has proven he can handle even the trickiest of high-wire acts in directing this year. Above all, it’s just fun to watch these massive stars in something so peculiar. Hathaway has caught some bad breaks in her career from critics, but this, here, is one of her best roles in years. Even some things don’t fully stick the landing, like the cause for the monster attacks and some side characters that don’t get resolved; however, the film still makes an impact.

COLOSSAL opens on April 7.

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