Big problems

“I know. I didn’t vote for him, either.”

“I know. I didn’t vote for him, either.”

Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis gloriously upstage two kaiju monsters in Colossal, a science fiction monster mash that features many twists and a psychological/emotional river that runs mighty deep.

Hathaway outdoes herself as Gloria, a New York writer who gets herself kicked out of her boyfriend’s (Dan Stevens) apartment for constant partying and being somewhat “unmanageable.” She winds up in her hometown sleeping on an inflatable mattress.

She bumps into Oscar (Sudeikis), a friend from childhood. He’s, an overly sweet and generous guy at first glance, immediately seeks to help Gloria out, giving her a job at his bar and giving her furniture for her sparse home. This seems to be the setup for a strange romantic comedy between Gloria and Oscar with science fiction/horror as the background.

Writer-director Nacho Vigalondo has something much different in mind.

Gloria awakens one morning after much drinking to discover that a giant, lizard-like creature is attacking Seoul, Korea. After examining some YouTube and news programs, she realizes that the monster seems to be mimicking her mostly drunk body movements half a world away. Yes, the monster is the manifestation of her self-loathing, out-of-control, alcoholic ways, and it’s taking lives in Korea. She feels more than a little guilty about this.

Things get weirder when an equally large monster robot shows up next to Gloria’s monster and appears to be the manifestation of Oscar’s anxieties. Oscar is far more into the notion of having a monster under his control and starts playfully taunting Gloria. The two monsters wrestle it out, and their battles become more intense as Oscar and Gloria begin to have bigger and bigger problems in their newly reborn friendship.

While the movie has plenty of fun with giant monsters beating each other up, it has even more fun with the mystery that is Gloria and Oscar. It becomes an introspective and even scary look at messed up relationships and, more prominently, severely messed up dudes and their manipulative ways.

Sudeikis is on fire in this movie, delivering easily the best performance of his post-SNL career. Oscar is as clever and charming as, well, Jason Sudeikis. Many of his actions seem to be propelled by good-natured ribbing or tomfoolery. As the film goes on, Sudeikis and Vigalondo slyly reveal more and more about Oscar’s psyche and what makes him tick. It turns into one of the more interesting, intricate character studies in a movie this year.

And then there is Hathaway, one of the more wonderful actresses to ever occupy the screen. There’s been a strange Hathaway backlash since her incredible, Oscar-winning turn in Les Miserables. (Some of that blame can go to her strained attempt to host the Oscars when her co-host James Franco mentally checked out mid-ceremony.)

Colossal immediately reestablishes her as an actress to be reckoned with. She’s everything in this movie—hilarious, heartbreaking, sympathetic and sometimes full-blown crazy. Sure, the manifestation of her problems is killing helicopter pilots in Korea, but we can’t help but root for her in her struggle. Many of us probably have buddies like Gloria, minus the kaiju shadow, of course.

Together, Hathaway and Sudeikis create fireworks that surely overshadow the monsters clashing. By the time it plays out, you’ve seen what will surely stand as one of the year’s more clever, adventurous, experimental films. You’ve also seen the next step in Sudeikis legitimizing himself as a true dramatic force in film. As for Hathaway, you’ve seen more of the same—an actress in full command of her every moment on screen.

What a wonderful, weird, gonzo idea for a film. Colossal goes into a category of movies along the likes of Being John Malkovich, Barton Fink and Mulholland Drive.