There are several stories being told in Colossal. For one, there’s the plot. There’s a story of a woman’s self-discovery. Her struggles with addiction. Her struggles with dependence. Her fight to be free from the burdens of her past. And last, but certainly not least, there’s a giant kaiju monster killing innocent people.
The plot of Colossal concerns a woman named Gloria (Anne Hathaway), an alcoholic writer who, after being dumped by her boyfriend, moves back to her hometown. While there, she meets up with a childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis) and struggles to get acclimated. However, Gloria’s world is turned upside down when a giant monster,much in the vein of Godzilla, is witnessed attacking South Korea… and she realizes that she may be more connected to that event than she originally thought.
While the premise may prove initially to be a bit far-fetched for some, the performances truly sell the concept. Anne Hathaway is great as usual in a bit of a departure from her typical archetype. Her character is a bit of a mess (intentionally). Hathaway always looks a bit frazzled and she beautifully walks the line between anxious tension and charming wit. While she brings her A-game, the real star of the film is Sudeikis. Without giving too much away about his character, Sudeikis is absolutely haunting in the film. He manages to deliver a layered, complex, and grounded character that meshes perfectly with the film’s bizarre balance of tone. He is also able to sell every scene he’s in throughout. Even if you weren’t dazzled by the film’s premise, I would still recommend the film based on his performance alone.
Similarly to the performances, the film itself walks a tightrope of various emotions. Also similar to the performances, these emotions are demonstrated well. The scenes that are meant to be funny are funny. The scenes that try to be thrilling are thrilling. Much of this is due to the camerawork. The cinematography of the action scenes are grandiose and epic, while the conversations between characters manage to bring us back to that sense of reality. The use of color also allows this balance to be maintained. Scenes with characters simply talking to each other are more gray, boring, and uninteresting. It allows the colors in the monster scenes to pop and emphasize the bizarreness of the situation.
While the film maintains a perfect balance of tone throughout, it falls apart a bit within the storytelling itself. The film’s sense of set-up and payoff is rather lacking. Various scenes will show a character performing a bizarre action that one would think would be setting up another scene. Unfortunately, it doesn’t and the audience is left scratching their heads as to why that scene was put in the film. I would usually say that this is a problem with the writing, however, in this case, it feels as though the scenes that would have provided the set-ups or payoffs for t were left on the cutting room floor. At worst, Colossal feels haphazardly cut and pasted together.
That’s not to say that the writing is perfect either. Colossal’s script seems to have a problem with character motivation as well. Characters will side with obvious villains for no particular reason, obvious solutions to problems are thrown to the wayside in order to have cinematic conclusions, and characters who seemed we were supposed to like are forgotten about in the third act.
At the end of the day, Colossal is fun. It’s a funny and enjoyable film. It’s definitely not for everybody and I could see how some would find it obnoxious, grating, or illogical. But, there are also people who could see it how I do; a competent, inoffensive, unbelievably earnest genre homage that also happens to feel like it could happen in a town like yours.