27 May 2017

Colossal review

Colossal might have been advertised as a quirky, high concept indie comedy, but that's really not an accurate representation of it at all. It's funny at times, sure, but maybe not in the way that trailers would indicate, and comedy certainly isn't where the focus of Colossal lies. Instead, it's part relationship drama, part "emotionally stunted adult returns to their home town" film and, bizarrely, part monster movie, all of which is used to mediate on self-destructive behaviour and abusive relationships in a surprisingly earnest and sobering way.

Yes, it's an odd film. But importantly, it's also a very good one.

We follow Gloria, an alcoholic party girl who moves back to her home town following a bad break-up in New York. Living out of any empty house that her parents used to rent out, she soon runs into an old school-friend who offers her a job at his bar - but after a night of heavy drinking, Gloria begins to suspect that she might be in control of a gigantic, Kaiju-esque monster that, since she moved back home, has been periodically rampaging through Seoul, South Korea.

It's an idea that in the wrong hands could have easily overwhelmed Colossal thanks to just how much can be done with it, but writer/director Nacho Vigalondo avoids that particular problem by ensuring that the concept itself never becomes the film's main focus - instead, it serves as a catalyst for the film's exploration of the aforementioned topics of self-destructive behaviour and abusive relationships, which is itself rooted in the characters we meet throughout Colossal and the way they react to Gloria's link to this enormous behemoth. Colossal's examination of these topics is a nuanced and carefully considered one, and while its central concept is larger than life, the films characters and the problems they face most certainly aren't, lending Colossal a sense of weight and realism that anchor it in the real world.

It's the rare example of a film greater than the sum of its parts, thanks in large part to Vigalondo's smart, sharp and incredibly tight screenplay. There isn't an aspect of Colossal that isn't working in near-perfect harmony with the rest of the movie, and as such it feels cohesive and complete in a way that few do, let alone those with a concept as strange as this one. Ultimately, it's this sense of thematic cohesion alongside Vigalondo's well-written characters and assured direction that ensures that Colossal's eclectic mixture of genres, tones and influences works as well at it does - even in its oddest moments, Colossal is filled with purpose throughout, meaning that nothing about the film ever feels unnecessary or accidental.

But that sense of cohesion isn't the only reason for Colossal's success - no small amount of credit needs to be given to Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis as Gloria and old school-friend Oscar respectively, both of whom give performances that really help sell Colossal as a film. Neither of them are playing particularly against type, but that doesn't really matter when they're each able to so easily nail the characters they're tasked with playing, and that's very much the case here. Sudeikis in particular is giving what is quite easily a career best performance - Oscar is a character of layers, and seeing those slowly peeled back to reveal that he's less a nice guy and more a "Nice Guy" is both completely consistent with the character we've been getting to know and, as the film progresses, uniquely terrifying in its own way. You almost certainly know or have known an Oscar, and the ease and believability with which he transitions into maybe the most villainous character I've seen in a film in a long time is frankly staggering, something that wouldn't be possible without Sudeikis selling every step of that journey along the way.

There are minor criticisms to be made of Colossal - even at just under two hours long it feels a tad on the lengthy side, and I can't help but wish it had a more bold, distinctive style to match the concept it's playing with - but they ultimately do little to diminish Colossal's success, again speaking to just how well its individual, disparate elements come together in service of a greater whole. Colossal isn't just good, it's also a completely original and unique film that succeeds where many others would have failed, and I can't imagine seeing anything else quite like it this year.

4 stars

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