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Colossal: Overgrown teenagers jump to adulthood in this quasi-monster movie

In Colossal, themes of maturity hide at a reasonable distance to audiences, and the strange magnetism of mundane drama makes us feel invested.

At first, Colossal looked like a monster movie with drama beneath the tableau. It even had to settle a legal arrangement with Toho due to the monster’s resemblance to Godzilla. Adding that to a promotion leaning to rom-com, Colossal stunned theatergoers as it was actually an imaginative drama at heart. The movie was written and directed by Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo, who made his name known with eccentric shorts and three feature movies. One of them is the captivating, smart time-travel sci-fi Timecrimes, which sci-fi fans surely must check out. Vigalondo isn’t well-versed in American pop culture, so very little Hollywood inspiration is visible in his works. They always possess unique qualities on familiar genre templates, which reaps the benefit from Vigalondo’s latitude to tell original stories.

An unemployed writer, Gloria (Anne Hathaway), goes day by day without noticing the negativity of alcoholism and irresponsible vacuity on her life. Fed up with this, her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) kicks her out of his house, putting a pause on their relationship. Gloria must move back to her hometown and then lives in her parents’ empty house. While brooding over her apathy, she reunites with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood friend who inherits a bar. Oscar is attentive to Gloria and even hires her as a waitress. Of course, her addiction for liquor doesn’t get better, especially with their routine of drinking with Oscar’s friends, Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell). One day, she knows of a Kaiju stomping the streets of Seoul in South Korea and eventually finds out there’s a link between her and the giant monster. Everything in her life gets bizarre after that.

In this genre-defying movie, Vigalondo gradually warps realism with fantasy as the smoky-eyed Gloria struggles with her numerous issues. We see a fairly relatable person—a millennial in her 30s, knee-deep in alcoholism and incapable of sustaining a healthy relationship with her boyfriend. Though the break-up is a wake-up call to her frivolous lifestyle, she is already aware of these problems yet can’t be psychologically prepared to mature. In the first half of Colossal, audiences expect her to bounce back for once, but Gloria still holds herself back in that comfort zone. She’s engulfed by addiction and chronic sleep disorder—a direct consequence of her weak-mindedness. Here, Hathaway breathed a ravishing vibe of authentic passivity in her character, carrying the fatigued party-girl attitude with enough conviction.

Colossal excludes the presence of parental figures to emphasize on the detached nature of family when a person reaches adulthood. Instead, help comes in the form of physical possessions, which makes Gloria and Oscar even more disoriented in life decisions. Their reliance on material support would go on forever if possible, but what separates Gloria from Oscar is that she’s open to positive change. The Western part of Oscar’s bar serves as an intriguing allegory for Gloria’s inclination to better herself (in contrast to Oscar), which would come into effect later.

Despite conventional setups, the first act really lures audiences in thanks to Hathaway’s convincing portrayal of depression and some running gags about Gloria’s forgetful tendency, which is crucial to the ending. Most of the comedies hit where they’re supposed to, and stay robust even when the Kaiju enters into the equation. Vigalondo only used the monster, which looks like a tree trunk mixed with Ben 10’s Jetray, as a bait for people who like monster movies because he didn’t show it much. At focus is still Gloria while the monster’s destruction sharply adds dark humor to lessen the discomfort. She later finds out that if she steps into a certain area in the town’s playground at 8:05 a.m., her unwanted giant puppet will materialize over the sky of Seoul. She stomps the ground, the monster stomps the city. It’s a projection of her problems to an international scale, sure, but is it a craving for public attention or just carelessness? Perhaps there’s always the possibility of us being harmful to other people, but it also depends on ourselves to give in to that urge or not.

One part of the reason Gloria couldn’t get a grasp on her life is Oscar. Disguised by the likable appeal of Sudeikis, this childhood friend cares for her too much and might as well have a crush on her. For a while, Oscar acts nicely, proving he wants her in his life by buying her furniture and even getting his own key of Gloria’s house. However, this indulgence is the force pulling her back into previous routines of self-destruction.

Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway

Contrary to Gloria, Oscar’s insecurities thrive on jealousy and his ineptitude to be a grown-up. His bar sits as a source of temptation—a literal load of booze—always available in front of Gloria, and she could have just complied with his negativity if not for a turnaround in his attitude. From this point on, the movie goes erratic and a little disturbing to watch. The end of the second act jams us in a bottleneck that feels stagnant as Gloria hasn’t found her way to deal with a crisis of humanity, but that’s the cast channeling realistic facts of life into a more dramatic framework.

Gloria may continue to engage in hedonistic activities and even takes advantages of other people; but once she knows of her interconnectedness with the monster, which is her impulsiveness and thoughtlessness, what will she do with it? Don’t try too hard to figure out the reason for it because there’s a rather shocking revelation later, explaining how it all came to be.

Colossal talks about how complicated it is to overcome addiction with many obstacles in the way. Themes of maturity hide at a reasonable distance to audiences, and the strange magnetism of mundane drama makes us feel invested. People can identify more easily with Gloria, and most can empathize with her situation: dealing with one’s social circles and stepping up to do what’s right. Personal issues, if controlled in a proper way, can be an outlet leading to redemption.