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“It’s like a fucking Wes Anderson movie in here.”

How’s this for a set-up: Anne Hathaway is a writer with a heavy drinking problem who discovers she has a psychic connection to a giant Godzilla-like monster in Seoul. Sounds kind of weird and quirky, doesn’t it? It is. But Colossal, from director Nacho Vigalondo, has a lot more on its mind than quirk. What Vigalondo has created is the perfect allegory for the dreadful events surrounding “Gamergate”, and a rumination on misogyny in general.

Hathaway plays Gloria, a magazine writer who has a rather severe drinking problem. Constantly partying and boozing to blackout proportions, Gloria gets booted from her New York apartment by her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens), who is sick of dealing with her issues. She picks up and moves back to her hometown, where she runs into childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Oscar owns a bar and seems, at first, to be a lovable dope. The kind of clueless but sweet guy that Gloria is destined to discover true feelings for and live happily ever after with.  

But that’s not what happens.

Instead, a giant Kaiju-like monster appears over Seoul one day and wrecks havoc. That’s weird enough, but things get even weirder when Gloria watches footage of the monster on TV and sees it mimicking a nervous tic she has, where she scratches the top of her head when she’s feeling awkward. After some amateur investigating, Gloria discovers that she has the power to control the monster’s movements. It’s a power she abuses at first before quickly learning the error of her ways. Unfortunately, Oscar also finds out about Gloria’s power. And that’s when things get nasty.

The casting of Sudeikis is rather brilliant, in a sneaky way. Sudeikis can easily play the charming, likable rom-com lead (see Sleeping With Other People). But he can also play kind of a creepy jerk (see also Sleeping With Other People). Vigalondo uses that to the film’s advantage, as it’s slowly revealed that even though Oscar thinks he’s one of the “good guys”, he’s actually a controlling, abusive asshole. You know, kind of like every single cry-baby idiot at the front of the Gamergate “movement.” Eventually Oscar finds a way to trap Gloria in an abusive relationship of sorts, and Gloria is utterly powerless. That’s the cruel irony of the set-up: Gloria has the power to control a Godzilla-sized monster, but she’s completely helpless to stop a bully like Oscar.

Hathaway is wonderful here, bringing a goofy charm masking an inner sadness. It’s almost as if she’s transported her addict character from Rachel Getting Married into a weirdo genre film. There’s a darkness to Colossal that I think is going to catch some people off-guard. The film starts on a light, almost frothy note, before venturing down some unpleasant roads. But the end result is a more rewarding, and surprising film. There’s a message of empowerment here. That sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand and stand up to abusive bullies, consequences be damned. Even if those consequences involve some mass destruction.

7/10

ESSENTIAL VIEWING

Colossal is playing at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival.

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Chris Evangelista is the Executive Editor of Cut Print Film & co-host of the Cut Print Film Podcast. He also contributes to /Film, The Film Stage, Birth.Movies.Death, The Playlist, Paste Magazine, Little White Lies and O-Scope Musings. 'The House on Creep Street' and 'Beware the Monstrous Manther!', two horror books for young readers Chris co-authored with J. Tonzelli, are available wherever books are sold. You can follow him on Twitter @cevangelista413 and view his portfolio at chrisevangelista.net

  • Egalitarian or bust

    What a fascinating review. It spends as much time describing the film as being sexist and stereotyping. I have a friend in his mid 20s who talks like this author does, it fascinates me.

    “Why do you say misogynist instead of sexist, you are trying to imply that sexism is a man thing”
    “No, you are sexist for saying that”
    “Saying what? That anyone can be sexist?”
    “No, objecting to stereotyping men as sexist”
    “Stereotyping is good?”
    “Stop being sexist. Men can’t help themselves!”
    “You mean all men but you, right?”
    “Stop patronising me. I have the right to think what I want”
    “So why do you stereotype genders?”
    “I believe in equality. The only way to achieve equality is to recognise that most men are misogynistic, er, I mean sexist”
    “And stereotyping is ok and not sexist?”
    “Not if you’re stereotyping a white male”

    I really don’t understand people like this author. Absolutely committed to sexism and prejudice and stereotyping because “all males are sexist, except him” and “females aren’t sexist or are so weak that they need such attitudes to defend them”.
    Are there people under 30 who are capable of looking past a person’s gender?

    At least Ars Technica agrees with you. The villain of the movie is the first boyfriend. He’s abusive because he wears a suit while being male and he kicks her out for being an alcoholic. He’s an abusive misogynistic pig! Hey, the movie even has the gall to have a flawed female character. Damn misogynistic writer. Everyone’s a misogynist, except Chris!

    Have I nailed political correctness? Sounds like it. How people can think like Chris is beyond me.