Colossal (2016) ☆☆☆(3/4): Her huge personal matter

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While people with drinking problem are bound to hit each own bottom, the heroine of “Colossal” hits an odd bottom under her extraordinary circumstance. Her life is already a mess, but then she finds herself suddenly being capable of a far bigger mess, and then there comes another trouble she must deal with. Having a small quirky fun with its preposterous mix of two different genres, the movie also surprises us as taking an unexpected plot turn later in the story, and I must confess as a South Korean audience that I was particularly amused by its chosen sight of mass destruction in South Korea.

After the prologue scene which sets the overall tone of the film, we see another lousy day for Gloria (Anne Hathaway), a young unemployed writer whose life and career has gone nowhere as she has gone through many frequent drinking nights. When she comes back late again to a Manhattan apartment belonging to her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), it is clear that he has decided enough is enough. In fact, he is already prepared to end their relationship.

Naturally feeling devastated by this, Gloria decides to go back to her hometown located somewhere outside New York City. Although currently penniless, she can at least sleep in an empty house belonging to her parents (the movie never tells us whether they died or are merely absent, by the way), and she also happens to meet Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old schoolmate willing to help her more than expected. Besides hiring her at a local bar he has run since inheriting from his father, he also brings several pieces of furniture to her, and she is certainly glad to have a much more comforting alternative to her faulty inflatable mattress.

Considering her drinking problem, working at a bar is not exactly an ideal job for her, but Gloria becomes a little more spirited than before as hanging around with Oscar and his two friends after her working hour. While Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) is your average dopey loser, Joel (Austin Stowell) is a nice, good-looking guy, and that aspect of his does not escapes Gloria as they talk a bit with each other.

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Now the movie sounds like your typical Sundance comedy drama, but then there comes a plot turn we expect from the very beginning. After coming back from the bar during one early morning, Gloria falls asleep due to her heavy drinking, and she belatedly hears about a big international news when she wakes up several hours later. A gigantic monster suddenly appeared out of nowhere and then disappeared in the downtown area of Seoul, and the whole global community is thrown into panic and horror because of this unprecedented happening.

At first, Gloria is simply horrified and amazed just like many other people around her as the monster keeps appearing and then disappearing in Seoul, but she comes to notice something familiar from the monster’s behavioral pattern, and she soon discovers the unbelievable connection between her and the monster. For some reason, the monster appears in Seoul whenever she enters a certain spot during a certain time period, and every small action of hers in the spot is simultaneously amplified into every big action of the monster in Seoul.

As Gloria tries to deal with her literally huge personal matter, the screenplay by the director Nacho Vigalondo deftly balances itself between humor and gravitas. While being more aware of possible mass destruction she can inadvertently cause, Gloria cannot help but have a little fun with her weird circumstance, and we get a small humorous scene when she fully demonstrates it to Oscar and their drinking friends not long after their another drinking time. As delving into a dark subject glimpsed around its story, the movie generates interesting dramatic tension during its second half, and I will not go further into details on that for not spoiling your entertainment.

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Two lead performers in the film keep their acting straight as maintaining the emotional weight in the story. Dialing down her likable persona via an unkempt appearance, Anne Hathaway is believable as a walking mess of problems, and it is enjoyable to watch how she ably goes back and forth between comedy and drama while never making an excuse for her deeply flawed character. Jason Sudeikis, whom I noticed for the first time through his comic performance in “Horrible Bosses” (2011), deserves some praise for effortlessly showing his more serious side, and I appreciate how he subtly conveys his character’s disagreeable side during his early scenes. The other characters in the film are less developed in comparison, but Dan Stevens has a good scene when his character finds himself in a tense, awkward situation later in the story, and Tim Blake Nelson reminds me again that he has always been an interesting character actor who can fill thankless roles more than required.

Vigalondo previously impressed me with two modest but engaging genre pieces which distinguish themselves through smart storytelling and wily handling of genre elements. “Timecrimes” (2007) is a fun thriller which cheerfully plays with its inevitable logic of time travel within its small space and time, and I was amused a lot by its clever moments of irony and paradox. “Open Windows” (2014) has its entire story unfolded within one single laptop computer, and I liked how it pushes its setting as much as it can while not losing its sense of fun and thrill.

“Colossal” is another entertaining work from Vigalondo, and I enjoyed its offbeat spirit as wryly observing Seoul getting destroyed on the screen. Shot in Seoul and Bucheon, the Seoul scenes in the movie look mostly authentic, and I chuckled during the scene involved with a short Korean message. It was too bad that the movie did not reach to many audiences in South Korea, and I hope it will be regarded as an overlooked gem here someday. After all, Seoul under a monster attack is something we do not see everyday.

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