“How many people did I kill?”
Often disguised as a monster film, Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is a deep, well-maneuvered character study where emotion trumps special effects and tone becomes a character all its own…that is, if you can get past the gimmick that somehow becomes the story’s main driving force.
Opening on an upscale New York City apartment in the middle of the afternoon, we are quickly introduced to Anne Hathaway’s Gloria as she stumbles through the door, obviously hung over from the night before. An argument ensues between her and her boyfriend (played by Dan Stevens), one that accelerates to find her on the wrong end of a break-up.
In an effort to regain control of her life Gloria opts to move back into her deceased parents’ rental home, unintentionally reconnecting with a primary school friend who offers her a job at his bar. But her new life comes with the same old problems, that is, until she begins to question whether she is directly responsible for a series of monster attacks that have been taking place in Seoul.
The film works its way through its plot points with unexpected precision. Gloria takes the job at the bar, continues to stay up late drinking, content with her new routine, and ultimately begins to question her involvement in the monster attacks after waking up on a park bench the morning after partaking in some heavy drinking (and dancing) on the playground.
Sound silly? Sure, that reaction is normal. Vigalondo doesn’t take your intelligence for granted. However, the way that things are presented makes the absurdity acceptable as you embrace the unusual qualities that surround Gloria’s troubles. Witnessing them come to fruition provides an interesting twist on the usual coming-of-age troubled adolescent storyline that appears to be on repeat as of late.
Gloria’s childhood friend and now boss Oscar (played by Jason Sudeikis) does nothing but contribute to Gloria’s problems, giving viewers a side-by-side comparison as he boldly attempts to impress the hometown girl, using beer as liquid courage, and working to ensure that Gloria stays in a place of need. It’s a difficult section of the movie to watch as viewers are forced to sit idling, hoping that she begins to understand the situation and get out before she finds herself in too deep. But his attempts appear to go unnoticed, prompting a blow-up that allows everyone involved to move on from their own problems and begin to see (and understand) the big picture.
The dialogue is often bleak, prompting you to question whether the characters are leaving college instead of their 20s. Fortunately Vigalondo doesn’t put much emphasis on the dialogue, allowing situations and character actions to do most of the talking. The approach is not foolproof, and Colossal hits a few roadblocks as a result. There is a monster waiting in the wings to give everything a bit of a jolt when needed, allowing the story to keep moving forward.
As the story enters its third act and several details become known that help to give the film a mild sense of credibility, you can’t help but appreciate the underlying humor and overall creative genius that went into crafting this film. Though far from perfect, Vigalondo’s ability to drop pop-culture references (including the hilarious “Thug Life” gif) is priceless, especially when it is backed by a monster wreaking havoc on the other side of the world.
*This review was originally featured as part of our 2016 Fantastic Fest coverage.