We can tell she’s aware of her downward spiral. An early scene finds her delivering her newest excuse to her ever-patient boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), a flirty smile prepared and a voice sugared by customer-service phoniness locked and loaded. She wasn’t drinking, she explains — she was napping at a friend’s house. The coy look in her eyes tells us this kind of thing worked when she was 25. But judging from Tim’s ferocious frown, these excuses are has-beens of justifications.
We don’t buy into it. So once her monologue finishes and Tim puts his foot down — get out, he says — we figure she deserves it. And Gloria knows she can’t protest this, both because her hubby’s already packed her bags and because she knows this sort of treatment should’ve become a commonality years ago.
With New York City no longer a realistic living option for the disgraced writer, Gloria’s forced to head back to her New Hampshire hometown, where she hopes things will pick up. Temporarily, they do: she’s hired by her old buddy Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) to bartend at his freshly opened tavern, and makes friends with her fellow miserable employees quickly.
But nights of getting fall-down drunk continue. So it isn’t until reports of strange kaiju-esque attacks hitting Seoul, Korea start coming out of the woodwork that Gloria starts seeing things differently. Horrifically, this radioactive monster is toying with skyscrapers as if they were Jenga towers. But this makes Gloria ponder if she’s that much different than this careless beast.
The parallels are meatier — and weirder — than meets the eye. And like 1999’s Being John Malkovich, a similarly bonkers black comedy, Colossal’s true blue identity isn’t really revealed until somewhere around the halfway point.
But much of the comparison ends there. Because Being John Malkovich more assertively presented its absurdities, the stranger it got, the more all in we were. Colossal looks the part of an alcoholism-centered indie dramedy, monster movie functionalities just ingredients that accidentally got mixed into the formula.
If it were more tonally scattershot — say the cinematic equivalent of a rambling, eccentric writer who managed to somehow get their outré ideas coherently onto a piece of parchment — then Colossal would strike us as something more than a tonal risk that plays out for 90-plus minutes.
But it’s like Oscar-baiting, actor-showcasing independent fare that’d otherwise be forgettable if not for the decidedly random kaiju edge. Vigalondo presents it all in deadpan style, as if he were making high art a cut above his more ambitiously minded peers. And the actors, particularly Hathaway in one of her best performances, dig into their work without a hint of hesitation.
But no one here’s being honest with themselves. Colossal's premise, as revealed during the second act, is just too outlandish. Yet everyone treats that outlandishness as a sprinkle of additional flavoring when it actually provides an opportunity for interesting, absurdist comedy. Because it doesn’t grab ahold of those opportunities, it increasingly resembles a descendant of a Charlie Kaufman movie trapped in a more rigidly conforming body. It’s awkward. But at least Hathaway’s great. C
Tim Blake Nelson
1 Hr., 50 Mins.
Colossal November 18, 2017
loria (Anne Hathaway), the unemployed anti-heroine of Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal (2017), is at a point in her life where getting drunk no longer feels like an escape. A dysfunctional blogger nearing the end of her 30s, she somehow still hasn’t moved past her party girl days. To those closest to her, her getting blackout drunk on a nearly nightly basis is no longer so excusable. When will she take the time to get her shit together?