Colossal from writer director Nacho Vigalondo is a strange beast mixing downbeat personal drama with quirky comedy and a Kaiju monster movie; it’s an odd but mostly successful combination.
Recalling Charlie’s Theron’s character from Young Adult, Anne Hathaway plays Gloria a once successful writer whose life has spiralled into drunken chaos. When her prat of a boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) kicks her out she returns to her empty family home in the small town from which she had escaped, hoping to rebuild her life. Reconnecting with a childhood acquaintance Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who gives her a job, she seems to be getting her life in order. Things take a bizarre turn, though, when she awakes from a drunken haze to discover that the South Korean capital Seoul has been subjected to shocking Cloverfield-style monster attacks and that these attacks seem to be connected to her.
The film steadily peels back layers on the monster mystery suggesting a connection with an unusual and slightly disturbing childhood experience. The monster attacks are essentially a metaphor for the destructiveness of selfish, irresponsible behaviour, embittered male violence and the lingering impacts of childhood trauma. They also have an unexpected resonance in the current political context and the impact westerner’s behaviour has on other countries. The film has, however, received criticism for its scenes depicting violence against women. In one sense these scenes reflect the malevolence of entitled males but at times this behaviour is dubiously employed as a device in what is largely a quirky monster movie.
Keeping together the disparate elements of such an oddball film requires a deft hand and questionable sexual politics aside, Vigalondo directs with both assurance and understatement. The film is also visually impressive as Vigalondo and cinematographer Eric Kress clothe it in a moody autumnal look. Fine use of music with a score from Bear McCreary successfully enhances this film’s unusual atmosphere.
To work, the film also required believable performances from its leads. Thankfully Hathaway and Sudeikis are excellent with Hathaway again showing as she did in Les Miserables and Rachel Getting Married that she can convincingly portray a damaged person while Jason Sudeikis adds darker layers to his usual quirky comic persona. Tim Blake Nelson and Austin Stowell also appear as two locals who seem be mostly Oscar’s verbal punching bags, they’re intriguing characters who could have been further developed.
Colossal is one of the year’s stranger films so it won’t satisfy all comers but for those prepared to accept this unusual tale of a monster from the Id it’s a mostly rewarding one.
Nick’s rating: ***1/2
Genre: Science fiction/ comedy/ drama.
Director(s): Nacho Vigalondo.
Release date: 13th Apr 2017.
Running time: 109 mins.
Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM. Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. http://subcultureentertainment.com/2014/02/the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-film-show
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