Colossal is completely self-aware of the classic monster-movie format. It is humorously self-parodying, but wisely does not mock the genre. Instead, it chooses to redefine it. This time, audiences are not faced with a vengeful beast seeking to destroy a city, but rather a displaced giant unintentionally wreaking havoc. The giant is also, surprisingly, an unemployed train-wreck called Gloria (Anne Hathaway) – and what better way to humanise a monster than to literally render it as a person?
The film has an interesting definition of what it means to be hard-up – Gloria miserably wanders around a dilapidated-yet-impressive looking mansion, complete with a swimming pool – while Elizabeth Cotten’s ‘Shake Sugaree’ plays unironically. Apart from this somewhat odd presentation of poverty, Hathaway is a believable alcoholic, complete with her slurred speech and washed-up appearance. There are a bundle of laughs to be had, mostly at her expense as she staggers hopelessly through each day, until a drunken display of bravado at the park turns tragic.
Tonally, Colossal manages to glide effortlessly from fun monster-rampage to sombre verisimilitude. Time is deftly telescoped, manifesting itself as changes in Gloria’s environment and attitude. This is a tale split between two worlds, each with an array of parallel consequences stemming from the same problem – an inability to take responsibility for one’s actions. When Gloria does hold herself (and others) accountable, it is powerful, freeing and refreshingly feminist. For a film that supposedly revolves around a terrifying behemoth, Colossal stays sensibly grounded in the lives of its human protagonist. This is a film that knows people are much larger than giants – and more interesting, too.