There may be a giant monster terrorising Seoul, but Colossal, it turns out, is something of a misnomer. Nacho Vigalondo’s new film is a character study, a small film that only occasionally masquerades as something befitting its title. This is a film about two very specific people, the monster a magical-realist exploration of their very specific relationship.
Those specific people are Gloria (Anne Hathaway) and Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Gloria is an unemployed writer and an alcoholic, who moves back to her hometown to “find herself”. There she reconnects with Oscar, an old school friend who now runs his father’s failing bar. After a drunken night that ends with her hauling an air bed home, Gloria wakes up to news of the Seoul monster. But what’s this? Is the monster miming carrying something over its shoulder? Like Anne was carrying her air bed this morning?
Colossal is at its best when it’s exploring the connection between Gloria and the monster. The film teases us with its origins and keeps us guessing as to its nature. The monster itself has a pleasingly chunky, action figure look to it, which makes sense for spoilery reasons, and also helps to mask the modest budget.
Unfortunately, the monster fun tends to get lost in the minutiae of Gloria and Oscar’s lives. The film meanders along, too often playing out like a sub-Judd Apatow comedy, with a script that is never as comfortable with its character beats as it is with its high concept premise. The actors are game: Hathaway is eminently watchable as a more damaged take on a Zooey Deschanel character, while Sudeikis’ usual amiability gives way to a surprisingly dark performance. For the most part, though, neither can save the bulk of the film from feeling patchy and uneven.
It’s only in the third act that Vigalondo gets it together and turns Colossal into the film it should have been all along. He takes his premise and stretches it to its logical extreme, crafting an inventive, cathartic, and oh so satisfying climax. It’s the way the monster mayhem reflects and ultimately concludes Gloria and Oscar’s relationship that makes Colossal, finally, a strange and enjoyable film. A shame, then, that it takes the scenic route getting us there.