The Anticipated: Colossal

In All, Movies by David

Hello all! It is time for another edition of The Anticipated. What’s that? You thought this day would never come? Yeah, okay, it may have been a little while… okay, more than a little while, but things are getting back on track. So let’s get to it by looking at the first film released by Neon, Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal. Now, you already know from my 2017 SXSW Movie Guide that I am quite the fan of this film, but now you can see exactly why this film–billed as Being John Malkovich strangely combined with Godzilla–worked so well.

Spoilers Ahead (Hmm, these are kind of big ones)

Colossal (April 7th, 2017)

How was it? 

Pretty damn good. But more importantly, it ends up being a film that people should see even if it wasn’t also good. This film is an anti-romantic comedy, and it is glorious for it. Sure, there is some sci-fi mumbo jumbo involving not-Godzilla, a giant robot, and strangely specific powers involving a lightning strike, a children’s park, and Seoul, South Korea, that gets a really loose explanation, but this film at its core is a character piece and it shines because of that. This is a film about a flawed woman trying to get her life together, and the flawed men she deals with in this process.

Enjoy those smiles, because it is all going to get subverted from here.

At the center is Gloria, played wonderfully by Anne Hathaway, and the meta commentary happening in this film with Hathaway’s casting is staggeringly brilliant. Hathaway is a great actress who has gained a level of disfavor the past couple of years because of some weird issue a lot of people had with the fact that Hathaway I guess wanted to win an Oscar too much when she acted in Les Miserables. It was all kind of stupid, and makes you wonder how much she just kind of wanted to tell everyone to fuck off at times. Gloria in essence is a character that tells those around her to fuck off if they can’t handle her, and it is amazing. That doesn’t mean Gloria doesn’t care about anyone else, but it does mean that while she apologizes for and/or seeks to rectify any wrongs she does to others, she never apologizes for being herself. It is a nuanced character performance that allows Hathaway to show off a lot of her acting range, and really helps sell the movie. Gloria is a unlikable mess that you still cheer for because she is so relatable.

As I mentioned, Gloria is surrounded by flawed men. Three specifically represent three different models of potential so-called love interests in other movies. The first is her ex-boyfriend Tim, played by Dan Stevens. The fascinating thing this film does with Tim is make him come from a place of sympathy, and really at times the moral high ground. Tim breaks up with Gloria at the beginning of the movie because she is taking advantage of him, and you can’t really blame him for it. Also, he does seem to really care about Gloria, even after the break-up. At the same time, he is kind of a controlling ass, who always feels he knows what is best for Gloria. So it is hard to say he is really a good fit for her. Their relationship is ultimately very toxic, with each bringing out the worst in the other. It doesn’t make either necessarily bad people, but it does emphasize how they are horrible together as a couple, which is such a unique thing for movies to say, especially with both people in the relationship realizing both their own shortcomings and (mostly) how toxic the relationship is.

The next in the line of love interests is Joel, played by Austin Stowell, and he functions in a way that is quite fascinating. On the one hand, he is the only character in the film to have actual romantic and sexual interactions with Gloria, but on the other hand he is in so many ways a peripheral character. Joel finds himself constantly falling into the role of Oscar’s (Jason Sudeikis) sidekick. Joel is mostly reactive in this film, and struggles to ever make a real decision on his own, especially as things between Gloria and Oscar really begin to go south. Cowardice is a trait that all the men in this film share. Joel is unable to stop Oscar from doing what he wants, Tim is only able to take half-measures in trying to break away from a toxic relationship with Gloria, and Oscar–well, Oscar is a whole other brand of cowardice entirely.

Oscar is the co-lead of this film, and he starts out as the nice friend from Gloria’s past that helps her get back on her feet. He is the perfect setup for a classical romantic comedy lead male actor. But this is all a front, as early on Oscar gives off way too much of a “nice guy” vibe that most films would ignore–but not Colossal, which takes it and runs with it. There are layers to Oscar, and as the film slowly peels them away you begin to see how truly rotten he is at the core. The film does a great job of straddling the line between Oscar wanting Gloria all to himself for misguided romantic reasons and simply making him a person who is miserable and so wants to drag Gloria completely down to his level. Sudeikis is brilliant at letting the nice facade of Oscar slowly fade away to reveal a vicious man-child who feels he deserves to be special, no matter the consequences. He is an entitled ass and Gloria’s ultimate triumph against him is immensely satisfying.

I really do wish the film could have done a bit more with the monsters.

Now, I know what you are thinking, what about the whole Godzilla part of this? Well, it is a bit of a mixed bag. This film is a character piece that happens to also include a story about how certain characters can control monsters with their movements under very specific circumstances. It would have been nice if the film had figured out a way to lean into this more, because this aspect felt mostly under-served in the movie, which is a shame. Still, the film does a great job of using Gloria’s monster moments, where she accidentally destroys parts of Seoul, as a perfect metaphor for how her erratic behavior is causing emotional wreckage for those around her. It is done a bit inelegantly, but at the same time it is a brilliant idea. The film doesn’t quite nail the execution, but it has to get points for trying.

Isn’t this based on…?

Nothing! Three cheers for original content, other than the fact that this film clearly wanted to be explicitly about Godzilla, but couldn’t because of all the legal reasons you would expect from, well, trying to use Godzilla in your movie.

Did it warrant its selection in The Anticipated?

Yeah, this film was not what I expected, either.

Well, sort of. I had come into this movie expecting a surreal comedy about a women who controls a Godzilla, but instead this film is an anti-romantic comedy that takes aim at toxic relationships and the male ego in romantic comedies. It creates a flawed, three-dimensional character in Gloria that Hollywood far too often fails to allow actresses to play, and it is a film all about subverting expectations. This makes it a film that many people definitely should see, even if its more fantastical elements never quite work as well as they could have.

When we move to the financial end of things, everything gets a bit murkier. The budget for this film is a bit undefined, and it hasn’t exactly set the world on fire with its overall box office of a little over three million dollars, so it likely has not made any money. Still, this is not exactly a film that got a wide release, and really was just supposed to serve as a solid way to launch new distributor Neon, which is run by founder of the Alamo Drafthouse Tim League. So this film likely has to be considered a success, because it is a critical success, and seems destined to be a film that obtains cult classic status in the future. More importantly, it establishes Neon as a distributor for more out-of-the-box ideas, which the industry is in desperate need of, especially if Neon can build its profile enough to make weirder movies in the $10-50 million budget range. Those films have mostly disappeared in Hollywood, which has generally embraced the idea that a film should only be either a super cheap indie-ish film or a gigantic blockbuster.

Would I recommend it to others?

Yes, this film is one that above anything else should really be seen because of how it deals with being a reverse love story.

How would I rate it?

It’s okay, the film is still really good!

So, how do we rate this film, then? Colossal had a long and somewhat difficult journey to the screen, which made it have a bit more buzz than one would expect for a film like this, and in some ways it didn’t quite live up to the hype. But that is mainly because this film was kind of like, screw the hype, that isn’t what this movie is about, and we are going to use your expectations to tell a very different story. That approach is rather brilliant, so overall I would say the antic-o-meter would rate this film 8 destroyed buildings out of 10. This is a really good movie, and one that is willing to discuss human relationships and interactions in a much messier way than movies are generally willing to do, creating a unique viewing experience.

For an actual rating: Well, this has already been discussed in my SXSW piece, where I gave it 4.5 out of 5 stars, using the SXSW star system. This is a great movie that loses points for some execution problems that make it very rough around the edges. It is well worth watching, though, and seems primed for a cult breakout once people can watch it it more easily from their own homes.

That’s it for this edition of The Anticipated. It has been a bumpy road to get to this point, but there is likely to be a rush of these in the future. So look for what is to come next (it is probably Baby Driver, but I am not making that exact promise). Anyway, stay tuned for more when The Anticipated returns.

-David Robertson