MARCH 18, 2017
I tend to doubt that T.S. Eliot was much of a moviegoer, but when he wrote that “April is the cruelest month” in “The Waste Land,” he knew what he was talking about, at least as far as the movie season goes. April, like January and the time around Labor Day, is the time on the calendar when studios release either their dogs or their odd ducks.
The dogs you can smell a mile away, but the odd ducks…that’s where you can sometimes find some gems.
Over the next few days, we’re going to talk about some of these gems which are either playing now or coming soon to a theater near you.
Let’s start with a real doozy — “Colossal.”
This alcoholic-romance/monster-movie mash-up was written and directed by Oscar-nominated Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo who, for years, has just been on the cusp of filmmaking stardom, seeking just that one breakthrough film. Based on its box-office and positive critical notices, “Colossal” may just be that film.
“Colossal” focuses on Gloria (Oscar-winner Anne Hathaway), a writer whose drinking problem who has kept her from working for over a year. That’s enough for her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens, in what seems to be his 23rd film so far this year) who throws her out of their apartment. Broke and with no prospects, Gloria decides to crash in her family’s empty house in the country.
There she runs into her childhood friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who has secretly had a crush on her since grade school. Oscar owns a bar and offers her a job as a waitress. Working in a bar doesn’t seem like the best idea for an alcoholic, but Gloria sees it as a test and accepts. She fails the test almost immediately, as she joins Oscar in an after-hours drinking ritual with his two buds — storytelling Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and cute Joel (Austin Stowell).
Attendance at the bar has skyrocketed thanks to TV news reports of a gigantic lizard-like creature that periodically appears and ravages Seoul, South Korea. As the bar’s patrons watch the footage, Gloria, who has a nervous tic of scratching her head, watches as the monster displays the same head-scratching tic.Stunned, Gloria suddenly raises her arm. The monster does the same. To her horror, Gloria realizes that her actions control the motions of the creature, who has already killed hundreds of people. What can she do to stop the carnage?
And then there’s Oscar, who has a surprise or two up his sleeve…
More I will not divulge, although I will say for me, at least, these far-fetched strands of storyline come together in a most unusually satisfying way. Or maybe I’m responding to the sheer nerve that Vigalondo displays spectacularly here. It sounds preposterous, but somehow magically it works.
About Anne Hathaway: I know that internet trolls have been dogging her the past few years, but for what, I don’t really know. Yes, her acceptance speeches during the “Les Miz” award season tour seemed more than a bit canned, but that doesn’t justify the social media grief that she has generated over the years. (Vigalondo’s script even addresses this head-on as Oscar remarks at one spoint, “At least your haters on the Internet will leave you alone!”) I like her performance even more here than “Les Miz” and is probably her best since “Rachel Getting Married.” So take that, haters.
High marks too for Jason Sudekis, who was for years one of the most interesting players on “Saturday Night Live.” Like other “everyman” players on SNL (such as Dan Aykroyd or Phil Hartman), there was always a dark side of Sudeikis that is displayed in full bloom here. His Oscar is introduced as a man delighted to welcome back an old friend, then a desperate man seeing how the best things in life have passed him by, then finally a vengeful man anxious to take back what he feels is his. Terrific supporting work.
If you love monster movies (as I do), don’t go into “Colossal” expecting state-of-the-art CGI creatures — the monster here (deliberately, I suspect) is strictly the man-in-a-rubber suit variety along with hundreds of screaming Korean extras, just the way you remember monster movies from your childhood. And that’s all to the good.
Is the monster real? Or is it a manifestation of Gloria’s (and Oliver’s) alcoholism? That’s up to the viewer. But if you’re willing, like me, to make the leap from Gloria’s psyche to the stomping monster, know for certain that it’s definitely worth the journey