Anne Hathaway Is Not to Be Missed in Extraordinarily Weird Monster Mash-up ‘Colossal’

Colossal,” written and directed by Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes”), is a film that defies all expectation and convention. Starring Anne Hathaway as an unemployed, alcoholic screw-up who inadvertently channels a kaiju monster to wreck the city of Seoul, “Colossal” starts out as a tragicomic jaunt through magical realism and takes a sharp left turn into the realm of psychological horror. But the film’s tonal whiplash is also what makes it so unique and, ultimately, so enthralling.

The movie opens up with an enticing tease: 25 years previously, a young Korean girl, while searching for her missing doll late at night, hears an ominous crack of thunder and witnesses the appearance of a gigantic, knobbly-headed creature. Cut to present day New York, where Hathaway’s Gloria staggers into the fancy apartment she shares with her posh but irate boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens, obviously), who calls her out on her drinking problem. “You’re a mess!” he yells, ejecting her from the apartment. As Gloria sits there numbly, half a dozen of her friends saunter in cheerfully with more alcohol, and we – as well as Gloria – realize how right Tim is.

With nowhere else to go, Gloria heads back to her suspiciously empty house in her tiny hometown, not making much headway in the “getting her life back together” department: she moves around in a subdued daze, and her habit of falling asleep in awkward positions turns into a running gag throughout the movie. She immediately runs into Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), an old childhood friend who owns and operates the local bar. He introduces her to the crew, Garth (Tim Blake Nelson) and Joel (Austin Stowell), offers her a job, and, later on, brings her a big-screen TV, a futon, and loads of furniture. It’s clear that Oscar is into her… or is he? His intentions become more and more muddled after Gloria discovers and reveals a bizarre connection between her drunken walks home from Oscar’s bar and the skyscraper-sized monster’s “drunken” jaunts around Seoul. Meanwhile, we’re left wondering: what happened 25 years ago to summon the monster in the first place?

That mystery may drive “Colossal’s” plot for much of the movie, but it is Anne Hathaway who commands every moment of screen time. After watching her self-serious turns in “Interstellar” and “Les Miserables,” it’s easy to forget just how effortlessly funny she can be. Sporting bangs a decade out of fashion, dolled up in dark eye makeup with her blouse perennially half-untucked, Hathaway plays Gloria with a booziness that perfectly straddles the line between hilarious and pathetic. “Colossal” confronts the harmful dangers of alcoholism through the conceit of a fantastical monster, and it works on both a comedic and cathartic level. Oscar, too, spends much of the movie inebriated – he plays the scary drunk to Gloria’s ditzy drunk, resenting the life he wishes he had, taking out his anger on anyone who gets in his way.

“Colossal” takes so many twists and turns that viewers may find themselves, three-quarters of the way through the movie, as unmoored as Gloria. Tonally, “Colossal” is all over the map, which leaves the audience in a state of disconcerting uncertainty – and this uncertainty, so different from the familiar slew of Hollywood movies, is exhilarating. We’re left to wonder: Is this a rom-com, in which the girl runs off with her beaux, or a Lynchian trip into unexpected absurdity? Is it a gritty drama that explores alcohol abuse and self-harm, or an uplifting treatise on forgiveness and empowerment? Like its engaging characters, “Colossal” is all of these things: an enchanting and glorious mess.

Colossal” opens in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on April 7 and expands into limited theaters April 14.