A singular, underappreciated gem.
Whenever I tell people that one of my favorite films of the 2010s is Colossal, they usually don’t know what it is or laugh at me. Not so different from how I suppose the giant monster within the film would be reacted to in real life. Its hulking size might be imposing, but its low-budget, wacky CGI makes it so you can’t help but disdain or smile at its awkward hilarity. The film’s tonal shifts are jarring but in a way that I found engagingly – not unenjoyably - abrasive. The plot falls apart under scrutiny but soars if you join the film’s wavelength. Its themes don’t have a thread extending through the whole film—it’s more like threads end, more threads come in, and old threads reappear in a distorted form – but all those threads are emotionally impacting, despite their disparate length and attention. Colossal might not be an objective masterpiece, but it has so much warmth and charming conviction to be original that watching it feels like the giant monster within the film is giving you a friendly hug.
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is an unemployed writer dealing with alcoholism. After her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) who owns their place breaks up with her, she returns to her hometown in Mainhead, New Hampshire. At Mainhead, she reunites with old friends, including Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Things are going all right until she starts to believe with evidence that a giant monster occasionally appearing and causing destruction in Seoul is tied to her.
Every character here is a mess, but for the most part, those flaws underscore humanity rather than depravity. The villain is a very pointed exception. For a while, the antagonist appears to be Gloria herself. It’s a lighthearted first half where the stakes aren’t dire, and the tone is something of relaxing lunacy. But as Gloria deals with her own baggage, she’s tossed something far worse. The reveal of that antagonist is where the rug is pulled from under the viewer and the dramatic elements become more prevalent than the comedic.
A tonal shift so extreme could’ve been bungled, but because the film’s dealing with very eccentric elements early on, the reception for Colossal going almost off the rails wasn’t the crash into awfulness for me that it would’ve been in films that started more conventionally. By introducing a gleeful cavalcade of eccentricities, the film opens the doors to big narrative swings that would’ve been a foul rather than a home run in other cases.
I love Colossal. I love its characters—both the half-baked and fully-formed. Its over-the-top climax. Its valiant ending that quickly turns pessimistic. I love that its twists and turns are so special that I would never think of spoiling it for anyone. I especially love its monster’s design. It might get laughs and jeers from the audience but it bounces off like the bullets that are ineffective against it. For all of Colossal’s ridicule, it’s a film unabashedly itself. It’s so confident that you might mistake its resolved stature for a giant.
Baseline Assessment: 7/10.
Bonuses: +1 For an unforgettable climax
+1 For an underrated Jason Sudeikis performance.
Penalties: −1 For not fully utilizing a couple members of its talented supporting cast
Nerd Coefficient: 8/10
POSTED BY: Sean Dowie - Screenwriter, stand-up comedian, lover of all books that make him nod his head and say, "Neat!