J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Sundance ’17: Colossal

You have never seen a kaiju movie like this before. For one thing, it is the city of Seoul that gets devastated over and over again, rather than Tokyo. In addition, two small town losers might somehow bear some responsibility for the carnage. Rest assured, alcohol is most definitely involved in Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal (trailer here), which screens during the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

The hard-partying, unemployed Gloria assumed she would be a New Yorker for life until her exasperated boyfriend Tim evicts her from his tony apartment. Rather depressingly, Gloria is forced to crash on the floor of her family’s old provincial home, where she has not lived in since elementary school. However, good old torch-carrying Oscar still recognizes his long-time crush and offers her a job at his bar. Obviously, this is a problematic source of employment for her, but Gloria still is not ready to grow up and be responsible.

One late afternoon-early evening, Gloria wakes up to news reports of a giant kaiju terrorizing Seoul. A few days later, the monster returns to wreak more havoc. Coincidentally, both rampages coincide with all-night benders that stretched into the not-so early morning—8:05 AM to be precise. Realizing the connection, Gloria starts to sober up. However, when she drags Oscar and the town’s Norm and Cliff to witness her power via the internet an Ultraman-like giant robot suddenly also appears.

Like a good Nacho Vigalondo film, Colossal takes a dark turn around the midway point, but it is always deeply rooted in human flaws and weaknesses. Frankly, Vigalondo is really building on the themes and symbolism of classical tragedy—we all remember “jealousy is the green-eyed monster,” right? Yet, the film has an appealingly grungy feel.

Vigalondo also showcases Anne Hathaway and Jason Sudeikis like you have never seen them before. In this case, Sudeikis, the former Saturday Night Live cast-member is actually funny, but he also convincingly veers into Jack Torrance territory during the third act. However, Hathaway gives a tour de force performance as the boozy self-sabotaging Gloria. Forget Les Mis. Forget Rachel Getting Married. This is the film that really shows her range.

Without question, this is the most intimate, character-driven kaiju film you will ever hope to see. It is often addresses emotional issues with brutal honesty, but it is also a ton of fun. Once again, it reconfirms Vigalondo is one of the best (and least predictable) genre filmmakers working today. Very highly recommended, Colossal screens again tonight (1/21) and tomorrow night (1/22) in Park City, as part of this year’s Sundance.

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