Everyone's had one of those groggy mornings after drinking where you can't remember if you cried in the toilet all night, or trampled across an entire South Korean city, right?
If so, Nacho Vigalando's Colossal will get very close to the bone, examining addiction through a unique hybrid of monster movie and indie mumblecore film. If that sounds confusing, think what would happen if Godzilla met Blue Valentine and had the most destructive, self-loathing baby imaginable.
Anne Hathaway (Les Miserables, The Princess Diaries) stars as Gloria, an adult who is well and truly struggling with growing up. After being fired from her online writing job, she is living and partying in New York at night while her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) works his "real job" by day. Thrown out of his apartment after yet another night of debauchery, Gloria returns to the comfort of her tiny home town to straighten out her life. Upon arrival, she is reunited with her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who now runs the local bar.
While Gloria struggles with her miniature meltdown, massive news floods in from overseas that a giant scaly creature has been wreaking havoc and taking lives in Seoul, South Korea. As the town grinds to a halt and residents stay glued to their screens, Gloria notices more than a few similarities between herself and the monster. Could it be that her catastrophic blackout drinking is actually what unleashes this beast on innocent people thousands of miles away?
Hathaway's Gloria is a repetitive train wreck of self-sabotage, drawing upon a more pared-back version of what we've seen of her in Rachel Getting Married. Try as she may to inject humour, many of the comedic moments are met with a stony silence that forces the mind to travel to parallel universes where the dour Aubrey Plaza or the chirpy Anna Kendrick had the top-billing role.
Sudeikis is the big surprise of the film, unleashing a toxic masculine presence that allows him to go much more extreme than anything you will see in Hall Pass.
As you may expect, juggling a monster movie with a personal drama can be incredibly awkward and the film suffers from several instances where its big clunky dinosaur paws can't seem to get their footing. It begins with much more comedic promise, but slowly spirals into something that's trying to be serious. When Oscar's own demons surface, you can feel the film desperately clawing at something deeper, but it never really allows itself to get as dark and revealing as you might expect.
Colossal does have an unexpected poignancy in its treatment of unfolding global catastrophes, however. Perhaps even by accident, trying to live in the best way while also staying glued to global threats, terror and general fragility feels particularly timely. Why bother trying to vacuum when the world is on the brink of collapse, you know? There's no missing the metaphor of America swinging its arms on its own soil and tearing down an entire city elsewhere. Gloria herself sourly notes that people will care far less about the chaos sooner because it's not in the Western world.
Colossal is an odd film that may feel disorienting to some, but it's also a totally original conceit that dares to tackle a little thing in a gigantic way. The characters and concept eventually wear a bit thin, but the waning pace is saved by a thrilling conclusion on the ravaged streets of Seoul. It's a film that stomps across genres and isn't afraid to make some mistakes, and asks each of us to think about the big implications of our small actions.