MovieBob Reviews: COLOSSAL - Geek.com

Here we have a movie where, honestly, the review I’d prefer to give would be telling you that Colossal is terrific. That it’s one of the coolest things, anyone has ever done with a monster movie. That it’s almost certainly going to end up in my Top Ten for the year and that you should just go out and see it right now… and just leave it at that. Not simply for plot spoilers (though that’s certainly an issue) but because the sense of “surprise” in watching a movie can just as easily come from being unprepared for a shift in tone or an acting decision – all of which are somewhat inevitably fodder for discussion in any substantive review.

But, since a full review is rather unavoidably the centerpiece of my job here: Yes, Colossal is one hell of a movie – arriving at a moment where I seem to find myself saying that a lot more than feels typical of a late winter movie schedule. Between this, Get Out and Logan, we seem to be living through a particularly strong cycle for filmmakers taking fresh, fascinating leaps of faith with genre material. And the idea that three of the best currently-running examples of strong human drama and risk-taking narratives are a Kaiju movie, a horror flick and (of all things!) an X-Men spin-off is worth sitting back and admiring every once in awhile.

Of those three, Colossal is absolutely the most far-removed a mainstream sensibility; very much an indie feature riffing on the conventions of a still fairly niche genre and decidedly more interested in the human-level aspect of its story. What sets it apart, however, is that it writer/director Nacho Vigalondo is very much skating the same edge as Charlie Kaufman-scripted productions like Being John Malkovich or Anomalisa. Movies where even though the high-concept “weird stuff” is absolutely serving as a metaphor for the realistic human stakes, it chooses to resolve those stakes by following the high concept to its own logical extreme.

In perhaps less opaque terms: Yes, Colossal is a movie where what at first seems to be an absurdist secondary storyline about giant monsters rampaging through a city in Asia is meant to serve as a literalized metaphor for Anne Hathaway grappling with abuse, addiction, and self-destructive behavior. But also one where the “grappling” in question becomes increasingly literal until solving the big silly monster issue and the tools for solving the personal issues are revealed to be one and the same in extremely direct, non-symbolic terms.

In any case: The premise here is that Hathaway is a failed (or, at least, extremely blocked) writer whose myriad insecurities, alcoholism and various other self-destructive behaviors have finally caught up and cost her her job, her latest boyfriend and her ability to continue living in her beloved New York City. Defeated, she slumps back to the nowhere-special small town she grew up in (and, we gather, was endlessly eager to have “escaped” from) and immediately falls back into an understandable but still fairly pathetic friendship with a circle of drinking buddies. The group is lead by Jason Sudeikis, a childhood “best friend” who at first seems to be simply nursing a long-unrequited crush but early on indicates that there’s something darker there. A dynamic that is at first obscured, however, as this sad-sack crew (along with the rest of the world) distracted by news that a real-life giant Kaiju-style monster has been randomly materializing in and out of thin air to wreak havoc in Seoul South Korea.

Some filmmakers might be content to lean back in their chair and leave it at that, content to have located an especially cheeky way to depict the ways that the “collective bystander” experience of post-9/11 cable news disaster coverage has become our distraction of choice. But Colossal is all about it’s second big reveal, wherein our heroine discovers the shocking reality that she actually is the monster. No, really. Through some (at first) unexplained phenomena, whenever Hathaway’s character enters a certain part of her hometown at a certain time of day, it causes a towering flesh-and-blood Kaiju to appear on the other side of the world and mimic her movements. This means that the horrific grand-scale rampages of destruction that have been terrifying the world and killing God only knows how many people… has actually just been her stumbling home drunk.

Again – obvious if clever metaphor is obvious i.e. recognizing the “blast radius” of self-destructive behavior that is never truly confined to the self. But what takes Colossal to the next level and firmly establishes Vigalondo as some kind of genuine mad genius is that he’s willing to make the narrative “get real” in tandem with the premise. The exact same moment where the plot of Colossal pulls back to remind us that “NO, this is not actually a cool thing to have happen, this is terrifying!” This is one in the same with the point where the character narrative puts a hand up and says “Hey, in case you forgot to notice there is clearly something a lot darker, broken, and insidious about the dynamic between these characters. And it’s not getting better.” Yes, if you know your Kaiju movies you probably have SOME idea how these two narratives will inevitably coalesce; but maybe not just how deep into either the logical or psychological core of his own premise Vigalondo is ultimately planning to dive.

Hathaway is, quite simply, unbelievable in the lead. At this point that can’t be much of a surprise, since she’s more than proven herself as one of the best working actresses of her generation. But it really is remarkable to watch her not only carry off a performance that effectively has to serve as the relatable human anchor of an absurdly fantastical story that could easily have stumbled and turned into smarmy hipster genre-parody at any moment. “Ho ho! Isn’t the tacky literalism of the Kaiju genre made hilariously apparently by our use of it as symbolism?” And she also has to do this while realistically portraying a character who’s sympathetic yet also damaged and frustrating in a very un-Hollywood kind of way.

But the big surprise is Sudeikis, who’s a bonafide rock-solid comedy straight-man. But here he reveals he has a genuinely fearsome dramatic persona too. It’s difficult to get down into the weeds of just why he’s so good in what turns out to be a very raw, complex character turn without giving away the whole game. But suffice it to say Colossal would not work if he weren’t able to nail a very specific tone of performance between compelling and deeply uncomfortable and then carry that to a place so dark and fantastical that I’m still amazed that it works.

Colossal is magnificently unique and special movie that deserves to be seen by as many eyes as possible. It’s different, it’s fascinating, it’s deeply emotionally affecting. It leaves its audience with a lot to think about both regarding the implications of its premise, but what it has to say about toxic relationships, social expectations and the way we do (or don’t) take ownership of our lives. A small-scale masterpiece you won’t want to miss.

MovieBob Reviews: COLOSSAL - Geek.com

MovieBob Reviews: COLOSSAL – Geek.com

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