Colossal, or How Movies Can Move Past Expectations

Colossal is a movie many people told me not to read much about. When I heard about it playing film festivals all I knew was that Anne Hathaway was playing an alcoholic and it was a monster movie. That honestly would have been enough to get me into the theater. It probably goes against writing anything about the movie but that’s probably all you should know going into it.

I, of course, knew slightly more than this after reading a few headlines and tweets, but it was just combing the fact that she was the actual monster that was rampaging through Seoul. Going into this movie with that tiny morsel of knowledge did not leave me prepared for the film that I would experience. Colossal is a movie about so much more than an alcoholic coming to their senses; it’s a masterful look at relationships and toxic masculinity. As the movie progressed and Hathaway’s struggles with alcohol started to merge with the shitty men that were in her life in surprising ways, I was struck by how profound it was. I mean here I was thinking this was just gonna be a movie about a woman conquering her monster (alcoholism) and got slapped with a bristling take down of toxic masculinity.

It happens few and far between for me these days, being this surprised by a film just given that I follow movie news, have written for several movie sites, and been innately curious. With Colossal, I went in as fresh as possible and had a better experience than if I had known where the story was about to go. I loved watching Hathaway navigate the murky waters of being a woman with issues amongst the men in her life: the sharp tongued but caring Tim (Dan Stevens), the dumb as a box of rocks but adorable but ultimately a bystander Joel (Austin Stowell), and the nice guy turned abuser Oscar (Jason Sudekis). This movie took great steps to make sure that we got the full range of what men have to offer and by having a protagonist that was messy, forced us to reckon with how we felt about what was going on. Particularly with Sudekis, seeing how the abusive behavior manifested slowly and how she used her fear of him to keep her in his clutches was even more frightening considering he, himself, was an alcoholic monster (a robot). Kudos to Colossal’s writer/director Nacho Vigalondo for exploring these issues using both monsters literal and figurative.