Colossal can be seen as a ground-breaking movie, either for its strange twists or for the damage done by the giant monster that shows up to stomp around downtown Seoul.
The kaiju stuff comes a bit later. The story starts half a world away, in Manhattan, where Gloria (Anne Hathaway) wakes up with a monster hangover. She drinks too much. Her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) hates it, and kicks her out. She’s sloppy on the job and loses that, too.
Gloria has no money, no place to stay, and so leaves New York for her upstate hometown and the empty, neglected house she grew up in.
A decade in the big city has left her unimproved -- she shuffles down the street as if still returning from a high school kegger. Maybe that’s why one-time schoolmate Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) recognizes her. He gives her a lift in his pickup, then a waitressing job in his local-fixture tavern.
Gloria consumes as much beer as she serves -- she and Oscar close up and drink till dawn with a pair of regulars (Tim Blake Nelson, Austin Stowell). Among the topics of conversation: the 40-story creature that has begun to appear in Seoul, materializing out of thin air, then disappearing.
Gloria is particularly fixated, as if there is some spiritual parallel between her and the creature, which bears a loose resemblance to Godzilla (the Toho Studios people thought so and filed suit).
There is an ingenious theory to explain Godzilla’s enduring popularity with children: Like the monster, they blunder ignorantly and clumsily into the grown-up world, destroy things without meaning to, and so are kindred spirits.
Does Gloria also sense a Seoul mate?
Colossal probes these head-scratching parallels for offbeat laughs. Gloria has her own record of collateral damage -- carelessly throwing away, for instance, the most handsome guy in Downton Abbey. Now here she is, beautiful and single and tipsy, in a bar with three guys, at least two of whom are interested.
She’s a one-woman wrecking crew, and Hathaway has fun playing the kind of heedless sexual opportunist that men usually get to play, shrugging off last night’s hookup and wondering what all the fuss is about.
And then, suddenly, the subject of the movie becomes masculinity and its inability to handle women like Gloria. It’s an abrupt turn in story and mood -- what had been loose-limbed and affable curdles into something unpleasant and disturbing. It left me wondering where the good movie went.
Just about everything goes haywire except Hathaway, who emerges from the wreckage with Gloria intact (up to and including her final gesture). Colossal feels a couple rewrites away from finished, but you can see why Hathaway loves Gloria, why she worked so hard to get the movie made (she’s executive producer).
She gets to have the male freedom to be a mess, and she does it in a way no man could ever do it -- Hathaway was four months pregnant when she made it.