*. Ouch! Without getting moralistic, there are some subjects that just don’t work as comedy. One of these is men beating on women.
*. This is especially the case when the abuse is, in context, not meant to be played for laughs or in comic-book fashion but is presented realistically, as the culmination of a building threat of physical violence.
*. To backtrack: Colossal tells the story of a young woman named Gloria (Anne Hathaway, in a truly godawful haircut) who returns to her small-town hometown after drinking herself out of a job and a boyfriend in NYC. She immediately gets reacquainted with a fellow named Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) she used to know as a kid who apparently still has a creepy crush on her. Oscar hires her to work as a waitress at his bar and it’s clear to everyone, though possibly not Gloria, that he figures they’re going to hook-up. Meanwhile, she’s ready to fall into bed with a young stud (Austin Stowell) and has no interest in Oscar at all.
*. Oscar is understandably miffed at this, and tries to leverage the fact that he’s Gloria’s boss and that he can do things for her into a relationship. He becomes increasingly nasty, and things finally get rough.
*. Does this sound like a rom-com plot? Well, there’s another angle introduced where Gloria is controlling a giant lizard monster in Seoul, and Oscar a giant robot. I take it this was meant as a metaphor, with the kaiju elements standing in for the collateral damage that people like Gloria and Oscar cause (through her alcoholism and his brutality). To my eye it made no sense at all and I couldn’t begin to understand why they bothered with it. I should also say that it isn’t funny either.
*. The movie I kept thinking of while watching Colossal was The Cable Guy, another very dark comedy that alienated a lot of people when it came out but that has gone on to become a bit of a cult favourite. It’s a movie that’s grown in my estimation too, though I still find it hard to watch. But Colossal is just hard to watch, with no redeeming features that I can identify.
*. Yes, Hathaway and Sudeikis are good, but their characters are dense and unrelatable. It’s not just that they have no attraction to each other, but they seem not to be able to see this for themselves. Then the supporting characters, of which there are only a few, are just as mystifying. Stowell is so passive he might as well be holding a camera. Gloria’s ex-boyfriend is such an upper-class twit he even has a British accent. Plus he’s a total jerk. You’re not in a good place watching a movie and wondering how soon you can get away from these people.
*. Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, whose debut was the excellent Timecrimes. His name made me wonder if “Nacho” is a real Spanish name. Who would name their kid after a fried tortilla chip? But I asked an expert and he told me that Nacho is short for Ignacio. I didn’t know that.
*. That matter settled, I had the sense that Vigalondo was trying to do something different here and that it just wasn’t working. None of the pieces fit together. This is a shame because if he’d wanted to make a serious movie about this kind of situation it had the potential to be something special. Even Sudeikis, cast way against type, might have worked as the heavy. But instead there’s a giant lizard fighting a giant robot and a gesture toward female empowerment, all interspersed with awkward attempts at humour. Not just a bad movie but a painful experience all around.