Colossal (2016)

110 min. Director: Nacho Vigalondo. Cast: Austin Stowell, Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis.

Late last year, the film A Monster Calls wove a psychologically instructive tale, about and primarily for children, in which a monster served as a conduit for troubling emotions. Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo’s new film Colossal serves as the grown-up edition of A Monster Calls by using a deliberately juvenile premise to speak to adults who need to grow up already and address the issues holding them back.

There’s an irony in that the majority of modern moviegoers resemble the characters of Colossal: it takes a giant creature (feature) to engage their emotional intelligence. Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, a callous, selfish blackout drunk Manhattanite who, in the film’s opening minutes, forfeits her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) and Soho apartment with her last-straw behavior. Gloria returns to her sleepy hometown, moves into her parents’ vacant house, and immediately runs into her old schoolmate Oscar (Jason Sudeikis).

It’s immediately clear that Oscar always had a thing for Gloria, which now manifests in his lavishing her with attention, gifts, and favors, like a job at the bar he owns and operates. It’s also possible that he’s his own business’s best patron, so he and Gloria bond over post-shift drinking bouts in the company of Oscar’s loyal barflies Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson). In one moment of unsparing honesty, Oscar remarks of day-to-day reality, “It’s hard not to get bored. I mean, there are ways, but none of them are healthy.”

These rom-comedic goings on share real estate with a world-shaking event: the appearance of a giant, devil-horned creature on the coast of Seoul. Gloria discovers that she’s linked to this monster—let’s just say it’s her spirit animal—of which Garth notes, “It keeps moving, destroying everything in its path, but it never looks down.” And so we find ourselves, with Gloria, neck-deep in an allegory of id. You can hope and pray otherwise, but your inner demons will always come out: some way, somehow, some day.

Vigalondo’s story allows him to explore thirty-one flavors of male and female entitlement, including self-loathing, addictive personalities and their post-bender regrets; the insecurities, like neediness and jealousy, behind bullying, domestic abuse, and other relational reckless endangerment; the apocalyptic damage unaddressed issues, including addiction, can wreak; and the helplessness of enablers.

Colossal makes a left turn from a rom-com (admittedly a dark-tinged one) into something that’s two-thirds psychodrama and one-third kaiju movie. In other words, it’s pleasingly weird, and a great choice for a star like Hathaway, who can now relax after having bagged her Oscar gold. Ultimately, Vigalondo spies some hope for the broken, that they can channel their rage for at least a bit more good than evil.