THE RAMPAGING MONSTER AS AN AVATAR FOR WHAT BECOMES OF THE BROKEN-HEARTED
By T.T. Stern-Enzi
Photo: Anne Hathaway as Gloria in ‘Colossal’ Rating: R; Grade: B
What’s with all of the hate heaped on Anne Hathaway? My inquiring mind needs to know what the hell is going on. I mean, she’s an Academy Award-winning actress for her supporting role in “Les Miserables”—and honestly, she was the best thing in that adaptation, if you ask me, and I believe, since you’re reading this piece, that means, to some extent, you did ask (so there)—and was nominated once before that (Best Actress for “Rachel Getting Married”). I would argue that she was even better that time, so she’s proven to have the chops.
She’s a capable comedic performer—see “The Devil Wears Prada” or “Bride Wars”—adept at either working within a solid ensemble or rising above the fray in broad sitcom material. She can turn on a dime, delivering dramatic beats after a pratfall (like in “The Intern” where she and an understated Robert De Niro tap dance effortlessly on a tissue-paper-thin premise). Plus, she’s got a swan-like beauty that is still emerging from the awkward cuteness that defined her early on.
The thing about Hathaway is she employs all of her talents every time she stands before the camera—the beauty, grace, comedic chops, you name it—so maybe that’s her problem. She’s a threat, thanks to this embarrassment of riches at her disposal that she exposes so unconsciously.
And in her latest film, “Colossal,” from Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo (one of the segments from “V/H/S Viral”) Hathaway brings a ragged sense of millennial angst to Gloria, a woman struggling to keep it all together in the face of a break-up and job loss. She wallows in her sorrows, seeking to drink herself into an emotional stupor, and then retreats to the small town life she left behind, but finds that she’s got bigger problems than she, or anyone else, could have ever imagined.
On the other side of the world, in Seoul, South Korea, the populace is beset by a rampaging monster, taller than a skyscraper, that appears out of nowhere and lays waste to anything and everything in its wake. Imagine if Godzilla became the gigantic avatar for a bullied, high school geek every time he sought to get high enough to escape his plight.
Of course, “Colossal” is better than that because, despite its ludicrous sci-fi-fantasy premise, once it settles in, the film works thanks to the charms of both Hathaway and co-star Jason Sudeikis, who is becoming an equally reliable go-to guy for these kinds of smart romantic comedies. Hathaway captures the sad clown lurking beneath the surface in Gloria’s predicament, but also remains attuned to the puckish fun awaiting once the character figures out what’s going on. Think about it—Gloria has another “personality” and life as a larger-than-life toy, and she slowly comes to appreciate that, like Godzilla, she can transform herself from monster to hero. All it takes is a sense of humor and a well-timed, goofy dance or two (in between saving the little people from another big baddie that makes an appearance).
Vigalondo borrows liberally from “Parallel Monsters,” his “V/H/S Viral” installment, which tracked a character with divergent lives on either side of an inter-dimensional portal, but he adds a degree of difficulty, replacing demonic horror with daft humor. This had the potential to be a high concept with even higher risk. We’ve seen intoxicated hijinks fall flat (anybody remember “Your Highness”? I didn’t think so).
But “Colossal” succeeds because Hathaway provides a solid and engaging emotional anchor. We appreciate Gloria’s all-too human and surprisingly intimate dilemma—and her escapist reaction to it. If only “Colossal” had found a way to mellow her out, instead of using her benders as a trigger for the monster mash-ups. This could have been one puff away from a colossally magical love story for our times with Hathaway as the princess we so richly deserve.