Colossal – Review (Toronto International Film Festival)

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Genre mash-ups can be a work of genius or a flat out dud; able to breath life into a stale idea, or add another ill-conceived pastiche that appears more like a parody. Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is a work of immense feeling, pivoting its dark, emotional story back and forth through a quirky small-town atmosphere and a nightmarish Kaiju attack on Seoul.

Anne Hathaway stars as Gloria, a self-destructive alcoholic who’s just been kicked out of her posh New York apartment by her boyfriend, Tim (Dan Stevens). Gloria retreats to her quaint hometown suburb in which she finds her childhood friend, Oscar — Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) as a smarmy bar owner secretly consumed by a self-hatred that stokes violent bouts of misogyny. Oscar enlists the recovering Gloria as a waitress, a job she’s reluctant to take at first, but ultimately finds a nest within the small town pubs network, even if they’re enabling the very habit that landed her back in this dead zone seemingly inhabited with nice guy weirdos (add some liquor to see their second form: villainous alcoholic weirdos!)

Colossal won’t please everyone, it satisfies with soft comedy and hits heavy in the second half with ultra dark, psychological turbulence.

It’s hard to speak about Colossal without giving away too much, hard to delve into its strange nature without tainting the experience for others. Gloria’s desire to take responsibility for her actions and fight her personal demons result in real, physical (and fantastical) monsters coming to life. A Kaiju animates in Korea as she stumbles through a neighbourhood park at the crack of dawn, but it’s not until a giant robot (Oscar’s personal monster) joins the fray, that she realizes this insanity isn’t just an unexplainable disaster. She is a reluctant saviour in Seoul, battling it out with classic movie behemoths and the hellish trap she fell prey to, the characterization of self hate, abuser and nemesis all in one.

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The tonal shifts can be jarring, flipping from the apt, digital age humour, to the menacing look at alcoholism and the brutality of men who hate women. Vigalondo contrasts these down to earth scenes with explosive monster brawls akin to Pacific Rim, resulting in a genre clash unlike anything we’ve seen before.

Colossal won’t please everyone, it satisfies with soft comedy and hits heavy in the second half with ultra dark, psychological turbulence. So, we can’t know how this film will fare with a worldwide audience. The entire affair is unique, yet absurd — solidifying Vigalondo’s piece as an energetic, fresh take on a well established genre.

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