Finally, the indie hipster romantic comedy/monster movie mash-up we’ve all been waiting for.
OK, so we didn’t realize we were waiting for it — but now that “Colossal” is here, what a unique and bizarre and surprising and original piece of filmmaking it is, and what a pleasure to experience a movie that takes so many chances and succeeds at nearly every twist of the plot.
Anne Hathaway is raw and real and pretty much sensational playing Gloria, a beautiful, smart, self-destructive, perpetual screw-up for whom the term “hot mess” was invented.
Gloria is an online journalist living in New York City with her handsome, well-off boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens). Sounds like the perfect life, except for Gloria’s ongoing commitment to getting wasted, neglecting Tim and generally being her own worst enemy. Tim has had it with Gloria’s disappearing act and constant partying. He packs Gloria’s bags and kicks her out, telling her she has no more second chances.
Out of options, Gloria returns to her hometown of Mainland (how’s that for an Americana name?) and moves into her late parents’ house. Within hours of arriving in town, Gloria runs into her childhood best friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), the classic, amiable, never-left-home good guy who is now running his late father’s tavern.
Oscar gives Gloria a job at the bar (dangerous turf for a hardcore alcoholic), sends over a bunch of items to furnish her house and is a supportive, sympathetic friend.
At this point, “Colossal” seems well on the path to becoming a genial, comfortable, predictable romantic comedy about the hard-bitten, cynical, self-destructive woman who comes home with her tail between her legs and falls in love with the solid, loyal, regular guy who’s been smitten with her since they were kids.
And then it’s not. That movie. It’s really, really not. Because Godzilla.
Not that the humongous, reptilian monster demolishing the streets of Seoul is actually called Godzilla, but you get the picture. While Gloria is getting blackout drunk in Mainland and trying to figure out her life’s path, the monster is making periodic appearances halfway across the world, seemingly appearing out of nowhere and then disappearing again after crushing hundreds of people and tearing up the city.
Slowly, Gloria begins to realize there’s an intense, strong connection between her actions and the movements of the monster, and I’m just going to leave it at that. It’s surreal and it’s goofy and it’s exhilarating and it’s rather amazing to see where it all goes.
There’s a little bit of a “Donnie Darko” vibe to “Colossal.” (The poster featuring Hathaway with the rabbit-eared monster behind her is certainly reminiscent of some “Donnie Darko” artwork.) Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo draws the line between Gloria seemingly experiencing a breakdown, and the monster in Seoul, and either you buy into it or you don’t.
Once the Gloria-monster connection is established (the scene in which Gloria tests out her theory is powerful and chilling), “Colossal” kicks into full-gear metaphor mode and becomes a story of a woman fighting back against an abusive relationship and the demons of addiction. Hathaway delivers one of the more complex and more memorable performances of her career, hitting a variety of dramatic and comedic notes in a richly written character.
Sudeikis’ Oscar becomes ever more … shall we say complicated as the story progresses. It’s strong work from an actor who can make the leap from laid-back comedy to intense drama — sometimes within the same scene — with nimble ease.
From its weird little prologue to a nearly perfect ending, “Colossal” is a trip in multiple meanings of that word.
Neon presents a film written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo. Rated R (for language). Running time: 110 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.