★★ / ★★★★
Although not short on imagination, “Colossal,” written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, remains a marginal disappointment because it is unable to balance its dramatic shifts in tone. A picture about alcoholism, toxic relationships, and giant monsters attacking Seoul, South Korea requires writing so on point that it creates an effortless melding of variegated elements. What results is a watchable but frustrating film, full of potential but ultimately unsatisfying.
Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, a New Yorker and an online columnist who also happens to be an alcoholic. Her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) is so fed up with the same old speech involving her willingness to make a change but history proves there is only inaction. Hathaway is able to play a spectrum of emotions and halfway through I wondered how she would fare in bleak dark comedies, a shade or two darker than her work in “Rachel Getting Married.” Here, she shows that she has a knack for looking like and being a miserable character but there is something about her portrayal that makes us wish to find out more about the flawed person who takes up a job as a waitress in her hometown. I wished, however, she would have refrained from employing her go-to wide-eyed innocent girl when situations present more interesting avenues to show other emotions.
I admired the film’s willingness to show what alcoholism does to a person. Initially, I found it quite off-putting that certain scenes would simply stop in its tracks, without closure or punchline, and then it is onto the next scene. Upon closer inspection, however, we realize that we experience what Gloria experiences on a day-to-day basis: random blackouts, inability to focus on tasks or conversations, the sheer exhaustion of having to keep one’s eyes open, the confusion of waking up in a room she doesn’t recognize. I enjoyed that the writer-director made the decision of allowing Hathaway to look beautiful physically but the ugliness lies within the characterization of both the performer and screenplay.
I found the giants fighting amongst South Korean skyscrapers to be cheesy and overlong despite being shown in quick bursts. I think that it is supposed to be cheesy on top of being silly, harmless, and amusing, but I did not buy fully into its conceit. The metaphor involving alcohol mixed with personal demons personified through these monsters is a hammer over the head, but it works well enough because Vigalondo grabs onto his ideas and pushes them all the way. There are even a few creative moments worth a chuckle or two. However, it must be pointed out that moments performed in front of a green screen are awkwardly put together, distracting, and ultimately taking away from the drama.
“Colossal” is for a select group of audience. If you believe monster movies, dark comedies involving a return to one’s small town, and character studies through veil of booze is niche, get a load of this one. I am happy to give it a marginal recommendation for those willing to see something on the fringe of mainstream. But viewers with certain defined expectations when it comes to how character studies should unfold might find it a better alternative to overlook the picture completely.