In Colossal, Seoul, South Korea, gets metaphysically involved in the self-destructive habits of a woman named Gloria (Anne Hathaway). Gloria has a drinking problem, and after her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) breaks up with her and kicks her out of his apartment in an act of “tough love,” she moves back to the town she grew up in to live in her parents house. Her parents are nowhere to be seen, a fact that curiously left unexplained in the movie, and their house is vacant of furnishings. An old friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), happens upon Gloria and offers her help, ostensibly, though he owns a bar, so that’s not helping her drinking problem much. Oscar has a couple of do-nothing, drunk friends, and they become Gloria’s friends too.
Oh, yeah – Seoul. A gigantic monster—think Godzilla but without copyright infringements—suddenly appears in Seoul, and Gloria figures out that she is able to control it from New England. It mimics her movements in real time. Gloria is amused and then horrified. The monster is killing people, after all, and she and her new friends try to figure out how to rectify the situation.
Sort of. That’s really only the first half-hour of the movie. There’s a bit more to the plot that I won’t spoil, but I will say that the relationships between the various characters are more important to the plot than the relationship between self-destructive Gloria and her polis-toppling avatar.
Colossal is a movie about alcoholism, kind of. It’s a movie about envy, kind of. It’s a movie about learning to stand up for yourself for yourself, kind of, but it’s also about learning to stand up for yourself for the sake of others. Again – kind of. Colossal is a lot of things. It’s funny. It’s weird. It’s disturbing. It’s inspiring. Hathaway is winsome. Sudeikis is a cipher. There’s something innately fascinating about watching a monster destroy a city, something beguiling in the slow-motion way giants move in movies and the coinciding havoc they wreak.
And yet Colossal feels in the end like a symbol searching for a referent. It’s a metaphor, but the audience has to supply the meaning. At one point, my heart was literally racing as I watched something Gloria does. I was excited by what I was seeing, because watching a little someone stand up to someone or thing that’s much bigger than them is intrinsically thrilling. We’re all little people facing off against powers that are bigger than us no matter how big we are, be those powers another person, an addiction, a character flaw, or a societal system. But does that movie moment “mean” any of that? Yes and no. It’s not definitive. It’s evocative, and the specifics of what it evokes for you will be different than what it evokes for me.