This is both a review of Colossal, the new film from writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, as well as a retrospective on where it fits into his growing body of feature film work. For a lot of people, Colossal will be the first time they’ve heard of him, or seen his work. And it’s a great place to start.

Colossal Review

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Colossal (2017)

First, let’s talk about Colossal. The movie opened this weekend in NYC, LA, and a few other select cities. If you saw the trailer, it kinda gives away the “secret” of the film. (I won’t give it away, so I’m not linking to the trailer, out of respect to the film). It’s the story of a young jobless woman, Gloria (played charmingly by the talented Anne Hathaway), who drinks too much and isn’t really in charge of anything that happens in her life or career. When her boyfriend Tim (Dan Stevens) kicks her out of his NYC apartment, she returns to her home town to get back on her feet. Without any real plan or grown-up responsibilities, she takes a job at a local bar owned by her old friend Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). He owns a bar and she drinks too much. What could possibly go wrong? The unhealthy (platonic) relationship between Gloria and Oscar form the core of the story. There’s drama, there’s comedy. Oh, and Gloria has a mysterious connection to the giant monster (kaiju) terrorizing Seoul every night. As Gloria discovers herself and the power she has, it brings out a toxic masculine insecurity in Oscar, and the true nature of their relationship is uncovered.

This genre-busting female-empowerment film was screened at TIFF, Fantastic Fest, and SXSW, and was well received by audiences who have seen it. I’ve seen it twice and I love it. Hollywood would never make this kind of film. A monster movie about female empowerment? The studios would rather crank out another summer blockbuster sequel to pay the bills so they can fund dignified Oscar-contenders in the fall and winter seasons. But the stars aligned (literally; movie stars aligned), and we have Colossal. I’m especially happy to see pedigreed actors such as Hathaway and Sudeikis take a chance on it. They don’t just bring name-recognition to the project; they really make the characters come to life. And this is, at its heart, a character-driven film. The characters are what gives this movie gravitas, above and beyond the creature effects and the comedic timing, which are done very well.

The Works of Nacho Vigalondo

I’m also excited about this film because it is the perfect showcase for the talents of Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo, who is no stranger to this type of genre-bending. From his early career shorts and experimental videos (many of which can be found in YouTube), Vigalondo has always had a flair for the fantastic and the whimsical. His stories work best when something magical happens to relatable characters. His characters are grounded in reality, even when the fantastic thing that happens to them is not. Take one of his earliest works, the Oscar-nominated short 7:35 in the Morning (2003). A woman walks into her favorite coffee shop, only to find everyone there suspiciously silent and unmoving…until a suicide bomber (played by Vigalondo) starts singing and dancing, and she finds herself the center of his attention. She’s a grounded character in a fantastic situation. And despite the Hollywood-level of production value and polish, Colossal retains those elements that make it uniquely Nacho. Colossal will give Vigalondo a boost in visibility and introduce a larger audience to his brand of interesting story telling. As a fan of his work, I’m excited about that. Colossal, is, if nothing else, an inflection point in his career, whereever that is headed. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Nacho Vigalondo at Fantastic Fest 2016

Nacho Vigalondo (center) channels his inner Fay Wray at the Fantastic Fest premiere of Colossal.

 

Feature Film Filmography

Timecrimes (2007)

Nacho’s feature film debut is the Spanish-language mystery-thriller about a man who finds himself stalked by a silent and menacing figure wearing bloody bandages. Then he meets a scientist with a time machine, which he uses to put things right, only to discover that he’s making things worse.

Extraterrestrial (2011)

If you enjoyed Colossal, check out Extraterrestrial, a quirky Spanish-language romantic-dramedy with a sci-fi twist. Julio and Julia wake up from a one night stand to the sight of giant flying saucers hanging silently over the major cities of the world. Despite the film’s title and sci-fi window dressing, the film isn’t about aliens or the flying saucers, but a comedy about the two star-crossed lovers, her clueless boyfriend, and a spying, jealous neighbor.

Open Windows (2014)

This puzzle-box mystery-thriller is Vigalondo’s English-language film debut. Nick (Elijah Wood) is a super-fan of movie star Jill Goddard (Sasha Grey). He thinks he’s won a contest to meet her, only to find that he’s been duped into some kind of twisted game in which both he and Jill are the would-be victims.

 

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