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Mother of All Monsters

"There’s something monstrous about living without responsibilities to others. That’s the clearest theme of Colossal, the new film starring Anne Hathaway as Gloria, an alcoholic piecing her life together while discovering a strange connection to a giant monster wreaking havoc in Seoul, South Korea. The film, written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo, uses the kaiju genre (Godzilla and its progeny) to meditate on addiction, self-loathing, and toxic friendships. Yet the film is also telling a geopolitical story with a satiric edge: it’s a giant monster film for the era of drone warfare.

Hathaway’s Gloria is a hard-partying wreck, an unemployed Manhattanite culture writer whom we meet in the process of getting kicked out of her fed-up boyfriend’s apartment. Her lifestyle is portrayed as anything but glamorous; in a running gag, Gloria wakes up after having passed out drunk on some floor and winces at the aches and cricks she’s accrued. With nowhere else to stay, Gloria crashes at her parents’ empty house in her old, empty-ish hometown and repeatedly stumbles, drunk, through a playground at 8:05 am. The news is soon abuzz with stories of a massive reptilian creature wreaking havoc and piling up casualties in Seoul, and Gloria recognizes the monster’s movements as her own. Somehow, when she enters the playground at that exact time, a colossal doppelganger materializes on the other side of the globe and reproduces her teetering steps. The world-shaking consequences of her actions give Gloria, at last, a sense of responsibility. She makes the monster write a message in the dirt of Seoul that doubles as a mantra of guilt and recovery: “I’m sorry. It was a mistake. It won’t happen again.”

Gloria’s frenemy and foil is Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), a childhood acquaintance who offers Gloria a job at his bar, then discovers he has a similar ability—a giant robot manifests in Seoul when he enters the playground—and fewer compunctions about using it. Oscar’s descent into villainy is punctuated with apologies. He fills Gloria’s empty house with furniture, but also pressures her to drink after she quits. Sudeikis marshals all his amiable guy-next-door appeal, then lets that curdle in a cocktail of jealousy and possessiveness. Soon he’s threatening to stomp all over the playground if Gloria defies him, seemingly unconcerned with the human cost to Seoul. A man of Middle America, he’s lost any sense of significance in his life, and is willing to treat other lives as insignificant to get that back.

The film swings from playful banter to life-and-death conflicts and back. Though it is primarily about this duo of characters and their arcs of dysfunction and responsibility, the protagonists’ towering alter egos give the movie global scope and stakes."


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