Colossal: Human Drama, Science Fiction, and Anne Hathaway

I have a mixed relationship with the concept of spoilers. While I usually get the idea of wanting to go into a movie cold, it seems to me that if the movie is good, it can survive spoilers. Sure, there are exceptions, but given Psycho, a movie whose twist is so legendary that Alfred Hitchcock altered the way people consume movies to preserve it, still holds up when you know the twist going in tells me that spoilers aren't that huge of a deal.

But, as I said, I do understand the idea of going into a movie cold and more to the point, I feel like spoiling thematic elements designed to surprise or shock the audience is more damaging to the viewing experience than spoiling the "What a twist!" moment. So, if you want to take the lowest possible chance of having this movie spoiled for you, I can tell you now: Colossal is absolutely incredible, will probably be on my best of the year list, and you should see it immediately.

Our story is devoted to Gloria (Anne Hathaway) an unemployed writer living off her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) in NYC while slowly devolving into self destruction and alcoholism. But as the plot begins, Tim has lost the willingness to continue to take care of her and kicks her out, forcing her to return to a small town in...someplace (is it Jersey? It feels like Jersey) to live in her parents' empty and unfurnished house.

"How many times did Attack on Titan come up when you Image Searched this movie?"
"Like, 8."
No sooner has she begun to reconnect with childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), gotten a job at his bar, and met other locals like Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell) than she discovers that she's not actually in a tween romantic drama: she's actually in a movie that's much weirder. Because, if she enters a specific kid's park at a certain time, a giant monster will manifest in Seoul, South Korea that will mimic her movements, regardless of whether they smash apart any buildings.

Now that's already an excellent metaphor, working off the fact that the self destruction one goes through when dealing with alcoholism or other substance abuse is almost never limited to the self and making it extremely literal. But then the film goes that extra mile, with a series of character reveals and twists that make the film not only a metaphor for alcoholism and the attendant self destruction, but a brilliantly realized story about control and abuse.

I almost want to end the review there, as I don't want to risk ruining the film's subtle shifts, but if I must talk about it, the first thing I want to praise is the blocking. Blocking is one of those things that you don't normally notice until it's done poorly, but this movie manages to place its characters and camera so well that it's definitely deserving of praise. Combine it with a fantastic script and a good cinematographer and we have a movie about giant monsters where the most intense scenes are dialogue scenes. And that's a compliment.

Shots like this one are really, really neat.
The most important thing the plot does is maintain a firm grasp on its supernatural element. Personal dramas with supernatural elements are, of course, nothing new, but too many of them lose track of the supernatural elements, focusing instead on the personal drama. But the best of them, like Colossal, understand how to resolve the supernatural story and the drama at the same time. I don't want to spoil, but by maintaining focus on both the human drama and the monster, it leads to a third act where there are established stakes in both, and thus a stronger third act than either would have had alone.

The actors do a good job of anchoring the story in something relatable and human. Hathaway is, of course, fantastic as she's been proving over and over again that she's a great actress. She manages to walk a series of fine lines, such as the one where we have to believe her rapid self destruction is real, but still see enough of a human beneath it that we root for her to recover, which then has to transfer to her selling her slow steps toward recovery. Equally impressive (and more surprising, since we all know Hathaway is great) is Sudeikis. I don't want to spoil, but he takes his performance to some surprisingly dark places, and he sells it hard.

"What the heck is Attack on Titan?"
Last year saw several films that had compelling human dramas backed up by a sci-fi or fantasy element, like Arrival or the criminally under-watched Under the Shadow (I'm guilty of that too, didn't see it until January) and Colossal is certainly on that level.

If it's playing anywhere near you, do not miss this one.

Elessar is a 27 year old Alaskan-born, Connecticut-based, cinephile with an obsession with The Room and a god complex.