Despite its title and one or two larger-than-life characters, Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is a surprisingly intimate and personal film, with a very specific thematic target.
Gloria (Anne Hathaway) loses her boyfriend and retreats from New York City to regroup in her small hometown as the film begins, finding work as a waitress and reconnecting with an old childhood friend.
“My little town for me represents something similar to Gloria” said Vigalondo during a phone interview ahead of Colossal’s Toronto release. “I live in Madrid, I’m a filmmaker, I live a filmmaker’s life, so going back to town represents the warm place where I was raised. At the same time, if i go back to town, that means things went wrong. It’s a symbol of failure.”
“When I wrote the story, I was going through a moment not far from where Gloria feels in the film. Gloria represents me in many ways.”
Our protagonist is spurred to go back home after seeing her life spiral out of control, mainly with drinking. However, a change of scenery doesn’t quite help. She is especially affected by catastrophe on the other side of the globe, while the new man in her life, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) has a problem with drinking as well. And with treating women with respect. Meanwhile, her ex keeps checking up on her.
“I was driven to portraying this nice guy archetype,” Vigalondo continued, speaking of the character who dotes on his friend and feels he is owed something, the kind who guilts a woman and may even sabotage her social life. “Watching other kind of films dealing with this stuff, the guy is more a plain evil guy. I’m exploring describing this character in this kind of dynamic, the kind we are used to perceiving in the internet.”
In creating a pair of male characters whose toxic masculinity grows and erupts over the course of the film, one who feels the need to baby and condescend Gloria, and another who manipulates and threatens her, Vigalondo was also trying to stay personal. As a man, he explained, see from where these characters are coming from – and he never wants to become like them.
“You’re mirroring yourself,” he explained. “You’re coming from a place you heard about, something in your male entity. When you make movies in this intimate way, and you make character, you’re making the person are you, the person you love to be, or the person you never want to be.”
Hathaway gives an impressive performance, inhabiting a characters with obvious flaws yes, but still strong and determined. “[Hathway] was focused on giving her character a kind of fluid identity. We are aware she becomes a victim in the film, she becomes abused, but we didn’t want to portray her as a victim, even if she was. She is fighting back, standing up. She does not become passive.” Yes, she becomes colossal.