MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Colossal’ is a whirlwind of refreshing unpredictability

A marvel of indie filmmaking, this comedic sci-fi film initiates a brilliant new start for a star, a filmmaker and a distributor

| April 20, 2017

This past weekend treated audiences to “The Fate of the Furious,” the 8th installment in the “Fast & Furious” franchise that has been ongoing since 2001. While reception to the film (which I have not seen and do not plan to see) was warm enough, it brings forth the question of “Even in a respected series, how long can you go on before something becomes horribly stale?” In fact, the film community has struggled with this dichotomy of franchise films vs. the realm of “original” filmmaking. Today, even in non-franchise films, it’s hard to come across something truly original and unique, but it isn’t as impossible as many would make it out to believe. Even big blockbusters like “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “Interstellar” have displayed vast amounts of unique creativity that we don’t get to see often. Though, it’s even more special when a film can do this on a low budget. For these films, there are only a few places for these films to be placed in the public spotlight, one of those being the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which premieres many of the annual awards contenders for the coming winter. While “Colossal” didn’t pick up any awards contention, the talk on this film and its new distributor, NEON, have taken the film world by storm in the months since, and now I see why.

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) is a New York City journalist recently laid off from her job and has taken up the comfort of alcohol to deal with the loss. After being dumped by her successful boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), due to her reckless behavior, Gloria is forced to move back to her parent’s empty home in her small hometown to recover. Upon arrival, she discovers Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend and local bar owner, who gives Gloria a job when he notices her situation. Oscar and Gloria bond with their friend group of town misfits (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson) as Gloria helps Oscar get the bar back into shape. One day, Gloria wakes up to discover that Seoul has been attacked by a huge, Kaiju-like creature that has wreaked havoc and destruction upon the Korean city. As she continues to monitor the situation, she realizes that the strange and erratic behavior of the monster corresponds very closely with her own behavior, leading Gloria to realize that she herself is controlling the monster from halfway across the world. Now, she must find out the origin of this ability, as well as how to stop her destruction.

I’m not 100% sure of the exact moment when it became cool to hate Hathaway, but it became a thing a while back that some people just cant shake. I don’t really understand the hate, but I can understand a tiredness over the style of movie she tends to do sometimes, though she balances these with other films that show her dramatic chops off like “Rachel Getting Married,” “Les Misérables,” “Interstellar” and now “Colossal.” While “Les Misérables” might feature Hathaway’s most powerful performance, I’m going so far to say that “Colossal” might be my favorite of hers to date. While Hathaway has done work to shake up her image, this is a role that truly stands apart as something different and surprisingly fitting for the actress. Gloria isn’t a typical movie alcoholic, as she exists in a strange grey area of high-functioning and completely messy, and despite her troubles, manages to still find light moments in her dysfunctional life. Hathaway is capable of handling both the light and dark sides of her character with a certain ease that still manages to feel coherent and whole, not disjointed.

Supporting actors in the film also get to take on roles one might not expect, which leads wonderfully into the sheer unpredictability of “Colossal.” While Sudeikis showed his dramatic chops in “Race” last year (long live my immortal selfie with him at a press event for the film), this is a performance that finds a lot of depth that one wouldn’t expect from a supporting character like this. The beauty of “Colossal” and its unpredictability lies in how the film is set up like a standard redemption story for a woman who has lost her way, but completely flips every single script and expectation on its head and leaves audience in a rare situation where they don’t really know what to expect at all. While not every supporting character is as fleshed out as Sudeikis’s, they all represent a level of mystery that develops over the course of the film, rather than establishing the tone from the start.

Did I mention that “Colossal” was made on a budget of only $15 million? Because one might think from its premise, and from the movie itself that this is a big-budget studio piece taking a jab at the standard Kaiju genre, but “Colossal” is through and through a marvel of indie filmmaking (not even taking on the name of its distributor in the credits). Directed by Spanish genre filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, “Colossal” truly does feel like a colossal piece of filmmaking, even if the film doesn’t constantly barrage the audience with an array of different visual effects. Rather, Vigalondo finds different forms of parallels between our world and the monster’s to make the presence of this great being felt even when the physical CGI creature isn’t on screen. While the visual effects in the film aren’t perfect, for what it’s (literally) worth, “Colossal” makes actual movie magic with its resources.

And to top that, “Colossal” is hilarious to boot. While the film does feature many heavy themes revolving around alcoholism and redemption, the film is flat out hysterical at some points, and even finds way to breathe a bit of suspense into the laughs as well. One might not think of Hathaway as comedic gold in any sense, but her sense of comedic timing playing off of its unique premise and comedic talents of her co-stars, hits a home run in comedy. The film never feels like a parody of films like “Godzilla” and “Kong: Skull Island,” but feels much more like a fresh take on the genre that seeks to revel in some of the ridiculousness that much of the genre is open to offering, but seldom ever does.

While “Colossal” doesn’t do everything perfectly, it’s a fabulously quirky, visually sumptuous, deftly original and flat out funny film that I guarantee you’ve never seen before, as well as opening up a discussion about the state of filmmaking and screenwriting in an age where originality is harder to come by. It also demonstrates a wonderfully glorious re-branding of an actress who is nowhere near done showing the world what she has to offer, a re-branding that hopefully finds way to open up the thought of more films of this and other calibers. On a technical level, “Colossal” is a milestone of indie filmmaking that will send ripples throughout the film community for many years to come. On a cultural level, “Colossal” has cult film written all over it, and if NEON really is looking to be the next A24, they need to run with it for all its worth. It will be hard to find another film that handles so many different elements that shouldn’t work together so consistently this year, which makes “Colossal” live up to its name in a most fabulous way.

4.5/5

Photo courtesy of NEON

Directed by: Nacho Viaglondo
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Dan Stevens, Austin Stowell, and Tim Blake Nelson.
Runtime: 110 minutes
Rating: R for language.
Now playing exclusively at AMC Concord Mills and the Regal Manor Twin & Ballantyne Village.

Voltage Pictures presents, in association with Route One Entertainment and Union Investment Partners, a Voltage Pictures, Sayaka Producciones and Brighlight Pictures production, “Colossal”

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Category:Arts and Entertainment, Film

Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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Hunter Heilman Hunter is the current editor-in-chief for The Niner Times. He is a senior Communications major who wishes he were a dog and wants to pet your dog if you have one. Hunter has been a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association (NCFCA) since August 2015. Hunter has been the editor-in-chief since May 2016. Please do not hesitate to shoot him an e-mail at editor@ninertimes.com for any questions or concerns and he'll be sure to get back to you ASAP.

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