Review: ‘Colossal’ uses exciting metaphor for emotional drama

Above: Anne Hathaway (right) and Jason Sudeikis star in this indie hit 'Colossal' (Photo courtesy of Neon) Movie reviews | 14 Apr, 2017 |

Where has Anne Hathaway been? She wins an Oscar for Best Actress and suddenly her discernment in picking movie roles increases in selectivity. If you want to find her nowadays, you’ll have to seek out an indie drama/monster movie mashup called “Colossal”. This bizarre film is well worth the search: “Colossal”, for better and for worse, is unlike anything you’ve seen — or dreamed, unless you’ve recently had a strange fever.

Anne Hathaway is Gloria, a spunky young woman with a drinking problem that gets her fired and broken up with. With nowhere to work and no one to live with, she moves from New York City to her parents’ very much empty house in her hometown. There, she runs into her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who lets her take refuge in his bar. And a giant monster that echoes Gloria’s movements from half a world away attacks Seoul, South Korea.

It’s natural to think that the last bit wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the story, but writer/director Nacho Vigolando manages to meld these events into a cohesive whole. Though “Colossal” plays fast and loose with its monster allegory, the life-sized character journey proves alluring alongside it.

Hathaway, who has spent her professional career slowly revealing how deep her talent runs, continues that steady flow towards artistic merit. Usually when someone credits a performer for ‘disappearing into a role’, the role is so unlike the performer that the successful synthesis of the two is surprising. Here, Hathaway plays a woman with familiar personality quirks rather than abnormal characteristics, but she still disappears into the role. By bouncing off of Sudeikis’ growth as a serious actor, Hathaway’s spirit makes Gloria’s character arc irresistibly genuine.

Alcoholism is central to this arc. While the explanation for how Gloria controls the monster clumsily killing hundreds in Seoul never makes much sense (and isn’t really meant to), the inadvertent destruction is clearly an allegory for the effect heavy drinkers have on the people around them. The screenplay is not subtle with this metaphor — a couple scenes practically spell it out for viewers unused to subtext.

But the imaginative way “Colossal” gets this message across is a joy to watch unfold: the movie combines Japanese-style monster fun with a character drama that would’ve been interesting on its own. It’s the kind of originality that takes full advantage of movie magic.

The last two acts rely on a couple plot twists to raise the character drama’s stakes, and they work to heighten emotions. But Vigolando also attempts to translate these twists into the world of the monster allegory, which feels increasingly clumsy. Eventually the monster rampage in Seoul represents vices other than alcoholism, and these new connections are muddy. “Colossal” trips into its own allegory, which is never more evident than during the film’s climax. It blurs the line between reality and metaphor enough to take the easy way out: a triumphant finale, but one that’s irrational even in a movie like this.

Such mishaps are small complaints in the face of a unique beast though. “Colossal” is a delicious combination of tastes: even when the food gets too mixed together, the feast is still pleasant.

★★★½ (3.5/5)

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