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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the INternational Federation of Film Critics, Munich
Festival Correspondent, Film-critic, Feature-writer

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Colossal, Review by Siraj Syed: Loss all

Colossal, Review by Siraj Syed: Loss all

Colossal loses big on two counts: It appears to have several allegorical, illusionary hidden agendas, and it goes about framing them in minimalistic, over-simplified montage. There is always a grave risk in making a socio-political commentary using metaphors like video games and giant monsters/robots, and the risk involves alienating (pun intended) both classes of audiences—the superhero aficionados, and the intelligentsia film-goers. Colossal notches negatives on both planes, and may appeal only to those who like ‘something different’ or to those for whom ‘the intentions and sub-text are more important than the sounds and the visuals’.

Gloria (Anne Hathaway) has lost her online magazine writing job in New York, and has become an alcoholic. Her British boyfriend (Dan Stevens) throws her out of his Manhattan apartment, forcing Gloria to return to her empty, childhood home, to sort herself out. She re-unites with an old school friend, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who spots her trudging along a road, carrying an inflatable mattress. Oscar happens to own a bar, which he inherited from his late father, and offers her a job there. He also furnishes her empty home.

Meanwhile, a monster called Kaiju (based on Godzilla) attacks Seoul, South Korea, each attack occurring at 8.05 a.m. The attacks destroy buildings and kill many who happen to be in the path of the monster, which appears, and disappears, at will. Based on her own nervous tick of scratching the top of her head, and the way she often has her arms akimbo, Gloria starts to realise that, maybe, she and this strange being, rampaging on the other side of the world are, perhaps, connected. But to queer things up, a robot joins Kaiju, and they have a bitter-sweet relation.

Starting with a conventional pre-credits scene set in South Korea and mouthed in Korean (sub-titled), the film then drifts into an oddball narrative that defies convention and mocks genre after genre, deliberately, and purposely. Spanish writer-director Ignacio ‘Nacho’ Vigolondo (Time Crime, Extraterrestre, Open Window, V/H/S Viral) turns 40 today. This could be his birthday gift to himself. For critics like thinks one, his anniversary cake is multi-layered but twisted and uninviting.

Vigolondo insists on taking all the credits and debits for the outcome of the film. “Domestic abuse, alcoholism, failure, regret--the narrative device is coming from a love towards those kinds of films. The actors are coming from my life, from my circumstances, from stories that I heard, stories that had happened to people that grew up next to me. They’re stories involving me. It’s my most autobiographical.” Fine words. Only they translate on screen a dozen or more scenes evoking un-intended laughter, lead pair acting like amateurs in a theatrical play audition and puerile, beginners’ exercises.

Perhaps the writer in him insisted on stringing together a bunch of disjointed, disparate incidents into one movie, so the characters keep getting out of character every five minutes. The director in him should have known better than to reduce the narrative to a caricature. Sarcasm is fine, tom-foolery and hocus-pocus is not. His fixation with an inflatable mattress is a case in point. In the end, this repetitive trope deflates, quite literally.

Anne Hathaway (Interstellar, Les Miserables, The Dark Knight Rises) must forget this film in a hurry. Screwing-up her face, trotting along in a gait that resembles an animal in slow-motion and pasting a permanently lost expression, to the accompaniment of “What” (Vut? in American English), is not acting. Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses 2, A Good Old Fashioned Orgy, What Happens in Vegas) tries hard but fails in his valiant attempt to carry the film on his shoulders. Both Hathaway and Sudeikis seem to be puppets in the hands of Vigolondo, with the strings showing.

Sudeikis must be wary of such projects that reduce him to a clueless debutant. Dan Stevens (35, British; Beauty and the Beast, The Fifth Estate, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tombs) comes through almost unscathed, and that is some achievement in the context. Austin Stowell as Gloria's second love interest has little to do while Tim Blake Nelson as Garth, Oscar's friend, shows potential.

Prior to the start of filming, Japanese film production giant, Toho, brought a lawsuit against Voltage Pictures, for using Godzilla's image, and stills from previous Godzilla films, in emails and press documents, sent to potential investors. A settlement was reached that October. Maybe that is to blame for the ephemeral visions of the monster we are subjected to, that too in poor resolution.

If you still want to subject yourself to this imposition, look for feminism, America and South Korea, butterfly effect, intolerance, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, class conflict, possessiveness, permissiveness, capitalism, motivation, pep-talks, narcissism, selfless sacrifice...so much? Yes, and more. Only it is all mixed in a country liquor-based cocktail that ends up being a concoction that you find difficult to carry, digest or assimilate. Overall, colossal is a huge loss, very nearly colossal.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q8hpm_BcHKE

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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