If you’re anything like me, you might have been wondering “Where in the world has Anne Hathaway been?” for the last couple of years.
After the one two punch of her Oscar-winning work in Les Miserables and The Dark Knight Rises, Hathaway took a step into the background. That may have had something to do with the unfair, sexist press coverage she received during the 2012-2013 awards season. It may have also had something to do with her personal life; she got married shortly before she began the press junket for Les Miserables and had a baby a few years later. She was still acting of course; she had a cameo in Don Jon, reprised her voice-over role in Rio 2, starred alongside Matthew McConaughey in Interstellar, headlined The Intern alongside Robert DeNiro and even popped up in the ill-fated Alice Through The Looking Glass. But there was a stark contrast between Hathaway before she won an Oscar, and after.
Where Hathaway’s post-Oscar roles weren’t exactly the worst roles the actress could have taken, they did little to showcase the full range of her capabilities. But in director/writer Nacho Vigalondo’s black comedy Colossal, Hathaway has found a role that superbly showcases the best of her abilities as a performer.
When we meet Gloria (Hathaway) she’s entering the spacious apartment she shares with her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) after yet another night of binge-drinking. Tim is sitting angrily in the kitchen, mentally preparing himself for yet another whirlwind of excuses, and Gloria does not disappoint. She’s been looking for another job with no luck, but continues to go out and drink until the sun comes up, but enough is enough. Tim informs her that he cannot deal with her toxicity any longer, and informs her that she will no longer be living with him. Hey, at least he packed her suitcases.
So Gloria heads back to her quaint hometown to her parents’ empty house. She gets herself an air mattress and sets up shop to allegedly work on her problems, only she continues to drink. This time at her childhood friend Oscar’s (Jason Sudeikis) bar with his friends Joel (Austin Stowell) and Garth (Tim Blake Nelson). It’s around this time that a giant Kaiju begins appearing in Seoul, South Korea, leaving death and destruction in its path. The strange thing is that it doesn’t appear to intend to cause destruction… it also appears at the very same time Gloria happens to be taking her hungover stroll through the local park, and even has some of the same mannerisms… you get where I’m going with this.
It’s a strange concept, one that immediately sucks the viewer in. Running at 110 minutes, there are moments where Colossal looks as if it could be running out of gas but confidently speeds over the finish line, managing to stick the landing. Vigalondo’s script uses the strange premise to comment on a number of things, including Hathaway’s own image in Hollywood and toxic masculinity at large. This may be a monster movie, but the monster in question isn’t the giant Kaiju that manifests as a result of Gloria’s drunk antics. In fact, it’s someone you’ve most definitely met before: the “nice” guy, and he can be every bit as terrifying and dangerous as a giant monster with the capability to knock down skyscrapers and stomp on unsuspecting citizens. If you have any preconceived notions as to what kind of a movie this is going to be, I guarantee you’re wrong.
At the center of it all is Hathaway, who carries the film on her very capable shoulders. She’s played a mess looking to get better before in the late Jonathan Demme’s masterwork Rachel Getting Married, for which she received her first Oscar nomination. Saddled under long and shaggy hair, and even shaggier shirts, Hathaway isn’t afraid to play up Gloria’s exasperation. She shows us the exhaustion behind her charming smile and the sadness behind her captivating eyes; there’s a magnetism to Gloria that is impossible to escape and threatens to pull everyone into her never ending black hole of destructive, self-absorbed behavior. And yet, Gloria is still a hero worth rooting for.
It won’t happen, but I want her to win a dozen awards for this performance. I’m convinced this is a role only Hathaway could have played, one that feels like both a milestone for the actress and a huge middle finger to everyone who openly mocked her during her awards run for Les Mis. Similarly amazing is Sudeikis, who has never had a better acting exercise and crafts a very believable villain underneath a kind facade. He has genuine chemistry with Hathaway, which is never exploited as a cheap plot point to give Gloria a love interest or agency (something I very much appreciated).
I’m not really sure if Gloria “gets better” by the end of the movie. Vigalondo doesn’t attempt to wrap things up neatly with a pretty bow. Rather, Gloria accepts her inherent messiness as a human being and truly comes into her own. Perhaps she will get over being self-sabotaging and narcissistic and land a great, solid writing gig instead of waiting tables. Maybe she’ll move back to the city and get a great apartment of her own, with a comfy bed instead of sleeping a blow up mattress in her parents’ empty house. But maybe she won’t. I don’t really think any of that is what’s important, but I can confidently say that whatever Gloria ends up doing will be on her own terms, without seeking approval of any men, or any one person for that matter.
I think we can all drink to that.