Now here’s an odd one. Got any interest in seeing a movie in which Anne Hathaway plays a woman with a drinking problem who comes to realize that she has somehow acquired a psychic link with a horrific giant monster who enjoys stomping all over South Korea? What if I told you that Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal also boasts an oddly aggressive Jason Sudeikis as a bartender who realizes that he also has a bizarre psychic link with a giant robot that (also!) spends time squashing its way across South Korea?
It’s a broad, unique and sometimes disconcerting collection of metaphors that Colossal has to offer, but it also works as a sly and satirical spin on indie films about aimless misfits who return to their hometown to start over, only to spark a tentative romance with a childhood friend. Colossal is a weird film to be sure, but it’s also a frequently fascinating one, and those who spend a lot of time at film festivals may be the ones who get the joke best. It’s the willful audacity of the premise—one that involves alcohol, a somehow magical patch of land, and a pair of giant creatures who can be “remote controlled” from halfway around the world—that allows the (relatively) more normal moments to hit home in unexpectedly insightful ways.
Although Colossal will get most of its attention for the amiably weird “kaiju” segments it has to offer, it’s actually at its best during the film’s quieter moments. Hathaway and Sudeikis do a fine job of playing against type; she’s a damaged woman with a drinking problem and he’s a seemingly nice guy who harbors a dark and nasty side. When Colossal isn’t focused on its enjoyably bizarre monster material, it proves to be quite an effective satire of numerous familiar and well-traveled indie flick tropes, cliches, and conventions. Bonus points for great supporting turns from reliable character actors like the handsome Dan Stevens and the always adorable Tim Blake Nelson.
Mr. Vigolando, whom indie fans will remember from films like Timecrimes, Extraterrestrial, and Open Windows, seems to derive confidence from strangeness, which allows even the wackier moments in Colossal to generate some unexpected emotional responses. Our anti-heroine is forced to struggle through obstacles that range from wholly bizarre to quietly relatable, but Ms. Hathaway does a great job of keeping this odd premise grounded in some sort of off-kilter reality. Mr. Sudeikis, who has made a nice career out of playing sardonic nice guys, seems to enjoy going considerably darker the longer that Colossal plays. The result is a strange but surprisingly effective pair of fractured characters who have the audacity to buck indie flick convention and head off into some dark, weird, and sobering places.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 burritos
Image: Brightlight Pictures