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Nacho Vigalondo’s surprise monster-film Colossal features a havoc-wreaking kaiju versus a giant robot, but this is not entirely a kaiju film. Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudekis are fine comedic actors portraying darkly-humorous characters, but this is not exactly a comedy. Gloria (Hathaway) is a down-on-her-luck alcoholic forced to face her past and addiction in the town she grew up in, but this is not always a tale of moral growth. Colossal is all those things, but it is also completely unexpected.

Hathaway’s Gloria is an ex-writer for a NY-based publication. Currently jobless, she comes home black-out drunk every night. Gloria’s boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) is fed up with her behavior and kicks her out of their NY apartment. If she wants to come back, she needs to clean up her act. 

With nowhere else to turn, Gloria moves back to her hometown, into her empty childhood home. Her friend from elementary, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), gives her a job at his local bar, unknowingly enabling her addiction. Add to that, the reunited friends get drunk together every night after close with some of Oscar’s buddies, Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson). Gloria isn’t getting any better and Oscar is getting controlling.
Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, a monster materializes and attacks Seoul, Korea. The world, and Gloria, are instantly captivated by the unfolding catastrophe. But Gloria notices something odd about the monster’s behavior, it only appears when she visits (i.e. blacks out) and wakes up at a nearby playground. The monster even mirrors Gloria’s actions, down to playful dancing and hand gestures on the playground. Gloria IS the monster.
She reveals this secret to her drunk friends one morning, careful to avoid trampling the Korean’s thousands of miles away. Oscar joins her on the playground and a giant robot also materializes in Seoul. Everyone is confused and Gloria falls to the ground, killing hundreds. It’s a sobering event that inspires Gloria to quit drinking and begin turning her life around. Oscar, who was always jealous of his friend’s success and ability “to get out of town,” becomes very enraged at the potential of losing Gloria. He threatens to level Seoul if she ever quits the job HE gave her and if she ever skips town.
Colossal boasts the most original idea to come out of SXSW’s high-profile narrative features this year. Nacho describes it as a tale of toxic masculinity, about looming over those “beneath” you. Oscar, who recognizes Gloria’s patterns of self-destruction, finds comfort in helping her, and if he can’t do that, controlling her instead. Gloria’s kaiju counterpart is representative of her addiction, a metaphor for its destructive, controlling potential. Also…the kaiju literally loom large.
As an extension, the film can also be interpreted as defeating domestic abuse. Oscar, who is empowered by his ability, uses it to threaten those that defy him. Sudekis will surprise audiences insistent he play the nice guy, as he let’s a dark side peek through his trademark smug humor, but it’s Hathaway who surprises with her versatility. She’s not a totally convincing drunk, but as she overcomes her addiction and rises above the abuse, Hathaway becomes an inspiring figure for those who have lived or are living through similar circumstances.

Colossal is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Chris Giroux
Chris Giroux is founder and editor-in-charge at Movie Reelist, an entertainment news and review blog serving the most fanatic moviegoers. Chris started his publication in Detroit in 2010 and has since reviewed hundreds of films and interviewed numerous talent across the country. He is an avid film festival attendee and red carpet photographer, having shot the likes of Steven Spielberg, Bill Murray, Mark Hamill, and more. Chris grew up in New Mexico, where he studied mass media writing while working in post-production and multimedia authoring. It is also where he discovered Big Trouble in Little China and Escape from New York, resulting in an unhealthy Kurt Russell obsession.

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