Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is the kind of movie like Drive (Cinemascore C-, RottenTomatoes 93 percent), Let Me In (Cinemascore C+, RottenTomatoes 89 percent) or even Children of Men (Cinemascore B-, RottenTomatoes 93 percent) that critics will appreciate, but that mainstream audiences will hate, because like the movies listed above, Colossal does not conform with expectations. The marketing campaign, such as it is, suggests that Colossal is a quirky indie romcom with a sci-fi monster element.
It is not that, although it is an indie film, and it does have a sci-fi element. It may feel like it’s headed in the direction you believe it’s heading, but it is not. Part of the success of Colossal, however, relies on the jarring subversion of expectations, so to say what it actually is would rob viewers of the surprise. Suffice it to say, if you’re looking for an Anne Hathaway/Jason Sudeikis romantic comedy — and will only be satisfied with an Anne Hathaway/Jason Sudeikis comedy — then you should look elsewhere.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, an online writer who is sacked from her job and kicked to the curb by her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens), because of a drinking problem that’s gotten out of hand. With nowhere else to go, Gloria leaves New York City and returns to her small hometown, where she runs into a childhood friend, Oscar (Sudeikis), who owns a local bar. Oscar takes an interest in Gloria, gives her a job as a bartender, and a friendship is forged between Oscar, Gloria, and couple of the bar’s regulars (Austin Stowell and Tim Blake Nelson).
Then things get weird.
Gloria stumbles home from the bar one night, falls asleep in a local park, and wakes up to find that a Godzilla-like monster has destroyed much of Seoul, thousands of miles away. It happens again the next night. And it continues to do so, until Gloria realizes that she is the kaiju and Seoul is the playground she keeps passing out in. If she stumbles and falls down in the playground in her hometown, 100 people are killed by a monster in Seoul.
Then things get really weird, as Gloria’s relationship with Oscar takes a bizarre turn.
To say any more than that would be a disservice, except to say that Colossal is a worthwhile endeavor, buoyed by the sort of strong performance we expect from Anne Hathaway and a sharp turn from Sudeikis, who you may not be surprised to learn plays a very convincing asshole. The movie works not only as a metaphor for alcoholism, but it’s also a surprisingly smart film about abusive relationships. I’ll also save you the effort of needing to watch Colossal a second time by just saying that the unsettling feelings that Sudeikis’ character provokes early on are warranted.
Colossal is not quite up to the level of Vigalondo’s Timecrimes, but it is likewise twisty and subversive, and made on a comparable shoestring budget. However, the biggest impact of Colossal won’t be felt onscreen, but in the conversations moviegoers have about the film afterwards.
Colossal was originally screened at the 2017 SXSW Film Festival. It opens in select theaters around the country today. Check your indie theater listings.