Review: Colossal (2016)

Colossal is utterly strange, but oh-so fulfilling till the very end. Drawing you in with uncanny imagery and a practically impossible plot, the film unexpectedly becomes a strong feminist piece about toxicity and entitlement. Spoilers to follow.

At the risk of me turning everything in this review into a giant pun (like that), I will say that Colossal is one of the smartest monster metaphor films I’ve seen in a while. It lures you in with a seemingly predictable, almost ridiculous plot device before surprising you with some serious truths about the imbalances of power, and tropes of entitlement and privilege. I liken this film to be in a similar vein to Get Out (2017) (although yes, a thoroughly different topic with a thoroughly different approach re: what’s monstrous), and this bodes well for indies this year if more films continue to be politically conscious yet so sincerely well-made.

The idea of grotesque inner demons – especially those directly related to women – has been put forth countless times. Hence, it’s extraordinarily refreshing that Colossal overturns this trope entirely. Rather, the film is a huge critique of toxic white masculinity, and Anne Hathaway’s Gloria is not the only one in danger from it. The fact that Oscar’s first thought is to destroy an entire East Asian city – something so far away from his life that it seems like a fantasy land – when a woman rejects him (without actually rejecting him outright because all he did was baseline decent things for someone else)…? That’s a strong statement to make about a man’s sense of entitlement, and it’s a distinct assessment of white maleness.

The film also deals with portraying a woman that’s ‘tough to love’ – at least at first – and we should examine why we feel this way about her when there are many stories of alcoholic men that don’t tug at these specific discomforts. Are women ever allowed ‘ugly’ emotions and actions? That’s a question people still ask themselves in 2017 when the answer seems obvious. But it’s become standardised dehumanisation onscreen – of anyone who isn’t a white man. It’s one of the ways we’re socialised into rooting for the umpteenth Sad Drama Featuring White Dudes at awards seasons.

Even as I write this review, I’m wondering how political ‘should’ I go with it. But as this film rocks the boat with bold statements and an even bolder, satisfying ending, those nagging questions prove irrelevant.

Other than the impeccable story, the acting stood out to me the most. Anne Hathaway has never been better, and she’s dynamite all the time in my opinion. She has quiet moments and bombastic ones in this film, and modulates the in-between expertly. When she wins, the audience cheers, or at least it feels like we should. Jason Sudeikis is f’ng terrifying and infuriating as Oscar, and it’s a good shift away from the kinds of roles I’m used to seeing him in. Dan Stevens’ wildcard – an ultimately problematic person who means well – is a treat too; the role allows Stevens to be both witty and annoying, utilising his naturally comedic slant to full effect.

This is an indie film with a glorious twist; one of my favourite bait-and-switch cinematic moments in recent history. Stick with it and you’ll be greatly rewarded.

★★★★½

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