Genre Mash-up ‘Colossal’ Loses Focus

by Tim English on April 19, 2017

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Rating: Swiss Fist]

I’ve always liked Anne Hathaway. Or at least I thought I did. I realized after seeing Colossal that I couldn’t think of one movie I liked her in or that she made better — The Dark Knight Rises had a lot of problems, but she wasn’t one of them; and she won an Oscar for Les Misérables…but man, I was stumped.

Colossal didn’t help her case, either. In fact, my opinion of Ms. Hathaway was put clearly into perspective by my opinion of her new movie, in which she plays a drunk who manifests as a Kaiju in Seoul, South Korea when she visits a playground in her childhood hometown. That being that i really don’t know what the fuck I think about either of them.

Yeah….so. It’s like….I kinda liked it, but I’m really not sure what I liked about it or why. The main problem is the movie doesn’t seem to know exactly what it is supposed to be. The plot, the characters, their motivations and the main question — why is any of this happening? — is so vague that it difficult to sort through all of the metaphorical tropes.

Colossal is the story of Gloria (Hathaway), an alcoholic party girl living it up in the big city, having apparently escaped the dretches of small town life. But she parties too much and it’s costing her a lot — mainly her relationship with her, Tim (Dan Stevens, who is in EVERYTHING right now: Beauty and the Beast, Legion, Downton Abbey.) Tim is portrayed as yet another man in Gloria’s life telling her what to do, but in reality, he’s just trying to help her realize the path she’s on.

When he finally kicks her to the curb, she has no choice but to go back to her hometown, where she falls in company with another dude, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who is a childhood pal or just some dude she knew (again, it’s vague) and takes a job at the crappy little bar he runs. But soon enough he develops an obsession for Gloria and his jealousies turn him into a possessive, abusive prick, which sends the film down a surprisingly dark path.

How do the monsters fit in? Good question. Basically there is this park in this small every-town, just a normal park, with a playground, etc. For whatever reason, this playground is some sort of meta-portal to Seoul. It’s never explained why. When drunk ass Gloria enters, she manifests in Seoul as a giant monster. Once she realizes what is happening during her blackouts, the movie is kinda fun.

Sudeikis is the one actor who really stood out for me here, and not just because he’s a fellow KC boy. Normally the nice guy, or the smart ass, Sudeikis is really kinda of an asshole — not even kind of. He’s a total prick in this movie. Don’t get me wrong. He’s really good, breaking out of the mold we’ve come to expect from him to become this overbearing….. monster. He actually feels a little too comfortable acting like such a piece of shit.

The problem is, I’m not sure if Colossal is a movie about an alcoholic using the monster movie, kaiju craze as a metaphor for losing control when you drink, or if it’s a monster movie secretly disguising itself as a lesson about not allowing alcohol and/or men to make your decisions for you and taking control of your own life. It’s funny and sad at the same time. There are moments of goofy joy followed by dark twists that feel even a little too sinister for a dark comedy.

Even bigger problem? I’m not sure writer and director Nacho Vigalondo really knows either. Colossal spends so much time tip-toeing between the two drastically different genres and never truly indulging in the glaring and obvious parallels to be made. It’s vague to a fault. Characters are introduced and disappear without much closure. Relationships and histories are never clearly defined.

I’m all fine and good drawing my own conclusions from a film, interpreting the themes in a way that makes sense to me. But Colossal doesn’t know which way it wants to go and it’s frustrating because I really feel like there is a good movie about here about how we allow our vices to make us vulnerable to negative people and relationships. Unfortunately, it never does enough to feel like the juice is worth the squeeze.

Writer. Ad Man. Jedi. Sometimes people ask for my opinion on movies. Sometimes they agree. Member of the Kansas City Film Critics Circle and the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Creator and voice of the Reel Hooligans podcast. Find us on iTunes. Board member for the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and founder of the Terror on the Plains Horror Festival.

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