Critic Consensus: Colossal's singular strangeness can be disorienting, but viewers who hang on may find that its genre-defying execution -- and Anne Hathaway's performance -- is well worth the ride.
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Critic Reviews for Colossal
Clearly a movie designed for niche audiences, it will not strike everyone the same way. But for those who embrace Vigalondo's wild wavelength, the rewards are innumerable.
It's a sci-fi/horror/psychodrama/comedy/thriller /revenge/romance film - and that jumble of a description not only works, it does so in spectacular fashion.
If you're in the mood for a monster movie, revenge-tinged romance, social satire, or simply a good time at the multiplex, consider Colossal entertainment.
"Colossal" is a challenge, no doubt, but writer-director Nacho Vigalondo pulls it off with a visionary flourish.
From its weird little prologue to a nearly perfect ending, Colossal is a trip in multiple meanings of that word.
Audience Reviews for Colossal
The buzz from several film festivals and eventual spring release for this indie had me hooked. A young woman who has lost her direction and returned in shame to her hometown mysteriously controlling a kaiju was such an intriguing premise. When I finally streamed this I was disappointed. A majority of the buzz positively called out the skillful mix of genres. I, however, strongly suspected that Spanish writer/director Vigalondo just didn't know what direction he wanted to go with this story. The twists and turns do not strike me as quirky, clever plot devices, but as flimsy and groundless attempts to fool the audience. Jason Sudeikis's character, who we expect to be a goofy comedic guy, is really quite nasty. Anne Hathaway's character is a spoiled, out of control alcoholic. She is so unstable that despite the actress's obvious charm and trying to make her character sympathetic through her consciously putting a stop to her kaiju's destruction in Korea, she is still unlikeable and her motivations are baffling. The scene with the fireworks inside the bar is equally distasteful and baffling.
In a very interesting mix, there are two films here: one is typically sci-fi about a woman who discovers that she has a very strange power and two, at the same time she realizes a terribly humiliating weakness for abuse. It'll be for you to decide which of the stories carries more weight but I thought the resolution was socko. Nice too was the timeliness of the production given the headlines of the day. The cast delivers big time performances in this nuanced production. Why have the fans missed this???
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has a monster of a problem. She's lost her job, her boyfriend (Dan Stevens), and is forced to move back home to her parents' empty house. She gets a job at her childhood friend Oscar's (Jason Sudeikis) bar. Then one night the news is filled with a 100-foot tall lizard monster magically appearing in Seoul, South Korea. This lizard only seems to appear at a certain hour, and Gloria realizes that she is somehow connected to this giant beast and responsible for its movements. What's a working girl to do? Colossal is a different kind of monster movie, that's for certain. It's got a dynamite premise that allows for plenty of different tones. There's an inherent wackiness in a party girl discovering that her actions have a very extreme set of consequences. For a while it's a slice-of-life picture about coming home and readjusting to the rigors of adult life, something Gloria has been putting on hold while soaking up the pleasures of New York City and the patience of her live-in boyfriend. She's picking up the pieces of her life and sometimes an acquisition of furniture like a futon can feel like a small triumph. There's a simple rhythm to these early scenes and writer/director Nacho Vigilondo slowly reveals more and more about character histories and relationships, remarkably free of ungainly exposition. There is a remarkably accomplished and sly sense of discovery with the movie, first with the implications and abilities of Gloria's monster avatar and with the movie itself. There's a cheeky sense of fun watching Gloria discover her connections to the monster and the special effects are pretty good for such an odd indie film. What are the monster's intentions? Where does it come from? Why is this patch of land and Gloria so special? Fortunately Vigilondo doesn't stop there. From a rules standpoint, there's only so much to learn through trial and error, but it gets even more complicated when Gloria decides to tell her buddies the news. Now it's about keeping her secret and making sure these often drunk, often-misbehaving guys don't cause an international incident. Hathaway (The Intern) is at turns hilarious and heartbreaking and she completely owns the movie, which she filmed while in her second trimester of pregnancy (explains the omnipresence of heavy coats). She has to play a woman who has self-absorbed and self-destructive qualities while not shutting out audience empathy. Hathaway brings out multiple dimensions in her flawed character. She can be cowed easily through guilt and intimidation, failing to meet up to her own standards she holds for herself, but she can also derive a quiet strength that pushes her to take a stand and make a change. Hathaway is apt at the blend of comedy and drama and she's a star with genuine acting chops. Despite her struggles and setbacks, we want her to succeed and she feels all too human. It's midway through where Colossal makes a sharp turn into territory I didn't see coming and reveals its true intentions, which are much darker and uncomfortable. Fair warning to readers, I'm going to try and avoid specific spoilers but even talking about the second half of the film serves as a spoiler in itself, so keep reading if you so choose. Beforehand, the movie has presented itself as a fun, slightly whimsical take on a down-on-her-luck party girl discovering a weird power. The monster serves as metaphor and I thought it was going to be a relatively obvious metaphor for alcoholism, something she had to work through and get her life back together, putting away childish things and integrating back to the world of responsible adults she's been avoiding. Then the turn happen and you realize that the monster isn't a metaphor for alcoholism but for abusive relationships. As you can imagine, this is more or less when the comedy slowly comes to a halt. It backdoors you into reconsidering everything that's come before and ingeniously plays the charms of its actors against your preconceived notions. It's a movie about abuse and manipulation and the capitulation to that abuse. Whether the source of that abuse is derived from alcoholism is up for debate, but I insist it's a complicated mixture of substance abuse, unchecked entitlement, and toxic masculinity. Oscar becomes our villain, and it may feel like a sudden shift to many viewers, especially those who were expecting him and Gloria to end up romantically linked by film's end. Colossal can be seen following a more familiar rom-com formula of the girl who goes home, reconnects with old friends, and becomes romantically linked, and the movie uses your expectations against you. Because of that, you may excuse Oscar's behavior, downplay it, and rationalize that he, like Gloria, is trying to gather his bearings and grow up. That's not the case. That's not the case at all, and the movie explores this notion by giving a serial abuser new unfettered power to endanger a multitude of human lives, people who are invisible to his angry outbursts and thus made even more expendable in his mind. This tonal turn dominates the second half and I can imagine many people will be put off and disappointed by how heavy and uncomfortable a giant monster movie has become. An emotionally abusive person will stop at any manipulation to keep people within his or her orbit so they constantly have targets for abuse. We get several scenes that examine this dynamic as Oscar tears apart his friends one veiled menace monologue after another, pushing their insecurities and influencing control over them. He's the "nice guy" who thinks the world owes him more than he's ever gotten, but a choice reoccurring flashback reveals he's always been this way. Oscar didn't turn into a jerk, he was this way from the start, and he's just gotten better at hiding his darker intentions, and he'll likely always be this way without redemption. Sudeikis (We're the Millers) digs into his character's misanthropy without going overboard, which makes him a far more realistic depiction of an abuser taking advantage of other people's good graces and chances. Colossal transformed into one of the more unexpected and surprisingly emotionally involving stories I've seen recently. I was set to enjoy the silly monster movie shenanigans being turned on their head with oblivious Americans unknowingly wrecking havoc on the Eastern world. Instead of global consumer commentary I got something much more personal and unexpected. I never knew where the movie was going to go next and found myself more and more intrigued by every scene. If the filmmakers could upend my expectations and keep me on the edge of my seat, then they did their jobs. The finale is magnificently executed as it employs just about all the rules we've learned concerning the monsters, space-time, and the sour relationship between Oscar and Gloria. It feels like a true culmination of events that is dramatically and emotionally cathartic. Much more than advertised, Colossal is an exciting movie for how different it ends up becoming, and yet it's still everything as advertised. Hathaway is highly enjoyable during her characters various highs and lows trying to make sense of her life. Vigilondo shapes an unpredictable narrative that subvert and overcomes formula expectations and audience sympathies. It's an involving and personal tale given an expansive scope and feel. Monster as metaphor is not a new concept. It's an externalization of our fears and labors and an expression of their cataclysmic destructive power. It also provides a focal point for a hero to overcome, and Colossal feels like somebody took a slice-of-life indie mumblecore character piece and gave it a dash of fantastical genre elements. I want to watch it again to see if I can catch nuances i missed, especially relating to characterization and performance. If you can hang on after the movie makes its midway shift, I think Colossal is a unique filmgoing experience that sees its vision to the end. Nate's Grade: B+
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