Colossal Directed by Nacho Vigalondo

Colossal Directed by Nacho Vigalondo
Courtesy of TIFF
This review was originally published during the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival

If you feel like there's a lack of fresh ideas at the movies, Colossal might change your mind. The latest out-there film from beloved director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) is a genre-bending pastiche of mumblecore dramedy and city-destroying kaiju flicks that boasts excellent performances and a strong feminist point-of-view.

Anne Hathaway shines as Gloria, a young New Yorker whose struggle with alcoholism leads her to stumble in late and screw up various aspects of her life. Here, Hathaway uses her onscreen charm and penchant for physical comedy for great results — we're always on her side, despite her constant fuck-ups. After one particular rager, her boyfriend (The Guest's Dan Stevens) has finally had it, and decides to boot her from their apartment so she can go sober up.

Instead, she moves home to her parents' vacant home in a small town nearby, where she reunites with her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), now a bar owner. Gloria and Oscar spend long nights pounding back brews with Oscar's socially inept drinking buddies (played by Tim Blake and Austin Stowell), and Gloria eventually gets a job there. Gloria and Oscar become inextricable as she helps him renovate his bar and he fills her home with some much-needed furniture.

After multiple nights of drinking until blacking out, Gloria awakens to discover that Seoul has been attacked by a giant lizard monster. (Vigalondo compared the beast to Godzilla when he was prepping to sell the script, a move that prompted a lawsuit from the Japanese production company Toho.)

But wait, there's more — it turns out that the monster was triggered by Gloria herself, and she discovers that she can control the beast when she's in a particular park at a certain time of day. Oscar learns that when he enters the park, a giant robot appears in the Seoul centre.

From there, the plot thickens in a way that's better to be seen than described, as the film reveals that it's really trying to set up a metaphor about power dynamics between the sexes and the unfair way in which men feel ownership over women. There are surprises at every corner, and they only serve to reinforce the film's already strong point.

Colossal has some minor pacing issues, but it ultimately manages to balance two polar-opposite genres while delivering a poignant message about gender inequality. This is one hell of a weird movie, but Vigalondo makes it feel natural. (Warner Bros.)