Genre filmmaking gets a breath of fresh air with Colossal. This unassuming movie from Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo defies expectations while scaling new heights of cinematic magic.
Firstly, Colossal is a relationship comedy, but secondly there is the monster element, which in the movie is a subliminal metaphor of the hero’s own self. Kaiju is a Japanese word for “strange creature.”
Anne Hathaway plays the alcoholic vixen girlfriend of successful Gotham businessman Dan Stevens. Hathaway’s modus operandi is to wait until her boyfriend/roommate has to go to work and wander in wasted from the night. As soon as he leaves she calls her friends, waiting in a car outside, to come to her shared luxury apartment and party on.
Jump cut to the next morning and Stevens has packed Hathaway’s luggage and told her to vacate their relationship. Hathaway moves back to her vacant parents home in a small town in upstate New England. Quickly she find enablers in the form of childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis) who himself has inherited his family neighborhood bar and hires her as a bartender.
Vigalondo has established himself with some highly idiosyncratic film, mostly set in a zone where the scientific and the terrifying merge. Timecrimes (2007), Extraterrestrial (2011), the segment “A is for Apocalypse” from 2012’s The ABCs of Death have created a path for Colossal. However Colossal levels the playing field by purposefully attracting a greater audience. The depictions of the monster are comical and satirical. Sophisticated audiences are going to be enjoying things they don’t understand. Genre fans are going to be ecstatic.
“I was ready to make a small film,” Vigalondo tells Free Press Houston in an interview conducted at last year’s Fantastic Fest. And indeed Vigalondo’s previous films have played for the initiated rather than the masses. “The incidents in Colossal, as well as all my movies, come from life in small towns.”
Vigalondo vision for Colossal would’ve resulted in another one of his Spanish language cult films, but Anne Hathaway got a hold of the script, wanted to be associated with it, and all of a sudden the film was being shot in English with name actors and a budget worthy of its aspirations. “With Anne, the film became something real,” says Vigalondo.
The film was lensed in Vancouver, Canada with some locations shots in Seoul, Korea. Even though Hathaway appears in the Korean sequences through the magic of filmmaking and rear projection, she was never there. “When we found the bar we incorporated elements of it into the script,” says Vigalondo. “It was huge enough to allow me to make big versus small symbolic distance comments about the characters.”
After the shift ends the employees of Sudeikis’ bar drink beer until dawn and they walk over to the local park to observe sunset. It’s here in the sandlot that Hathaway discovers, partly through social media, partly through her own intuition, that she controls a monster that has been terrorizing Seoul.
The events in Seoul unfold on iPhones and social media links. “Social media has redefined modern living,” Vigalondo observes. “Everything is preceded by the press of a button. In the past you would talk about evil face to face. But now you just press a button. There’s no victim when you press a button.”
Colossal continues with enthusiasm to a logical if otherworldly conclusion. “When I’m making a movie I like to keep my ideas fresh, and not get lost in the process,” says Vigalondo.
Colossal opens exclusively this weekend at the Landmark River Oaks Theatre and the Alamo Drafthouse Mason Park.