By Chaz Lipp
The Lowdown: A muddled message and rampant silliness sabotages an admittedly intriguing concept.
Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal deserves some credit for at least presenting a unique premise. Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an out-of-control drunk in deep denial. Her addiction to booze wreaks havoc on her personal and professional life. When a giant Godzilla-like monster begins rampaging through Seoul, the world is in collective shock but Gloria is seemingly the last to know about the crisis. She operates on her own skewed timeline, oblivious to the larger issues around her. Then she figures out that she is actually the monster.
Yes, literally. Gloria recently moved back to her hometown after live-in boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) kicks her out. Whenever she stands in the local elementary school’s playground at exactly 8:05 AM, the monster materializes in Seoul. The monster is actually “virtual Gloria,” an avatar that matches her every move. Sloshed out of her mind, Gloria initially finds the whole thing funny and shows off to her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Oscar hired Gloria to help out at his bar. In between her blackouts, Gloria has kinda/sorta established a new life thanks to Oscar’s help. But when South Korean citizens are killed by Gloria/The Monster’s antics, it’s not so much fun anymore.
The bizarro set-up is the best thing about Colossal, which Vigalondo presents as a Charlie Kaufman-esque mind-bender. The first act strongly resembles Young Adult, the Jason Reitman-written, Diablo Cody-written gem that found Charlize Theron returning to her hometown and rekindling an acquaintanceship with a former classmate. Hathaway captures the same sort of thirtysomething ennui that Theron tapped so well. That Vigalondo would mashup this Young Adult redux with Pacific Rim is nothing if not novel. But the whole “monster symbolizes Gloria’s alcoholism” scenario lacks nuance. The monster is out of control and causes disaster wherever it goes! The same can be said of Gloria! It’s all painfully heavy-handed.
Where Colossal really loses control and finally collapses is when another giant menace emerges in downtown Seoul. This time it’s a gargantuan robot, initially believed to be the monster’s ally. TVs the world over are tuned to live broadcasts of the latest robot and monster antics. No fair spoiling who the robot represents—Colossal, despite its problems, plays better when its surprises unfold naturally. The problem is Vigalondo’s message becomes increasingly muddled as he introduces additional metaphors. The film is a curiosity but one that is ultimately more frustrating than satisfying.
Colossal images: Neon