In Colossal, Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, a former journalist with a serious drinking problem. She’s kicked out by her boyfriend, returns to her hometown, and meets up with an old childhood friend that has a thing for her. Quirky romantic comedy tropes ensue. Sound familiar, right?
Oh, Gloria also has a telepathic connection to a giant monster attacking Seoul.
Still sound familiar? Didn’t think so.
It might be a cliché to say, but Colossal really doesn’t feel like anything you’ve ever seen before. Nacho Vigalondo, the writer and director of the cult-favorite Timecrimes, blends two very different genres into a film that feels entirely unique. Every time a new twist is added to the story (many of which should not be spoiled), Vigalondo miraculously avoids driving his film off a cliff. Whether he wants to be funny, scary, or serious, he masterfully conveys the proper tone and keeps the viewer hooked. If my audience at the Toronto Film Festival was any indication, this has the potential to become a new cult classic, with multiple scenes drawing passionate applause from fans.
What really makes the film work is the way it seamlessly transitions from being a quirky comedy in the vein of Scott Pilgrim vs. the World into a serious drama with something to say. Without revealing too much, Colossal explores abusive relationships in a way that will undoubtedly elicit an emotional response from many viewers. And that’s what helps Colossal stick the landing. It disarms the audience, winning them over with humor and creativity, making the transition to more serious topics a welcome one. It should also be noted that even when the film becomes more somber, it stays entertaining. By the time issues like domestic violence, alcoholism and internalized misogyny rear their ugly heads, audiences are already invested in the universe Vigalondo created. They’ll want to stay and enjoy this wild ride.
Unfortunately, there are a few hiccups. Colossal is about twenty minutes too long, with Gloria’s ex-boyfriend, played by Dan Stevens, making an unnecessary return in the final act. The film also could have used a bit more dwelling on Gloria’s alcoholism. While too much attention would have bogged the film down, we’re simply meant to believe she’s troubled because we’re told as much in the opening. It’s an unfortunate case of “tell” vs. “show.”
These are small prices to pay for such an original story. Credit has to be given to Anne Hathaway, who carries the film with a strong performance. Hathaway is a movie star, who doesn’t necessarily have to star in a small, independent film with such an unusual premise and, likely, a niche audience. It’s easy to see why she took this part though. It’s such a brave, unique film that constantly surprises the audience, both with how the story unfolds, and the themes it explores. When it appears at a theater near you, seek it out. You won’t be sorry.
Rating: 7 out of 10