There’s a constant absurd nature to Colossal, but it is unquestionably the most majestic, controlled, and powerful absurdity possible. The entire conceit of this drama-fantasy hybrid is peculiar, but it’s also ancillary. The film is so perfectly-executed, so wonderfully balanced in tone and scope that what unfolds is an impactful medley of joy, despair, hatred, wonder, and amusement.
With Colossal, though, the less you know, the better – so we’ll be vague. From Nacho Vigalondo, this initially capricious and later darkly uncomfortable film follows Gloria (Anne Hathaway) from the big city back home to the suburbs, looking to collect herself after being broken up with and accepting a problem with drinking too much.
There she reconnects with Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a grade school friend who gives her a job at his bar, stuff for her empty family home, and some needed company. But weird things are going on too. Gloria is especially unnerved when a strange disaster occurs halfway around the world. Something bizarre, jarring, and significant takes place that captures her attention, irrevocably altering her existence.
For all the larger-than-life events and presences that emerge, Colossal is overwhelming intimate. The relationship between Gloria and the men in her life are of most importance: her ex (Dan Stevens) continues to check up on her while Oscar feels the need to be a figure of protection. And later when he starts to see that she is becoming self sufficient, he resents her resiliency.
That toxic masculinity forms the base of the subtly feminist Colossal. It’s a stirring condemnation of the prevailing attitude of most men who compulsively guard, undermine, condescend, and target the women who don’t require their constant assistance or return their affection. What’s more, Vigalondo serves up all those films that fail to recognize this male character, which is just about every romantic comedy ever, the ones that see the nice guy as justified and owed. In those stories, the jealous, sad sack friend wins the day in his mind, getting the girl. Nothing in Colossal follows any familiar cinematic or thematic pattern, especially male and female dynamics.
It’s entirely spellbinding, a blend of magic and humour and morbidity that is surprising if for no other reason than it all meshes so well. Though, Colossal is surprising for other reasons too. Hathaway is tremendous, anchoring a film that needs its determined, tired female to carry the way. She is our admirable, unenviable heroine throughout, subject to male possession, societal expectations, inner demons, and an unexpected burden.
All of it combines for something unforgettable and jaw-dropping. The last shot of the film is perfect.