OUT 13 APRIL RATED TBC / 110 MINS
DIRECTOR Nacho Vigalondo
CAST Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis, Tim Blake Nelson, Dan Stevens
PLOT A hapless drunk (Hathaway) moves back to her small hometown, where she reconnects with an old friend. But their boozy routine is interrupted when a giant lizard creature attacks Seoul — an attack which has a mysterious connection with their small town…
YOU’VE NEVER SEEN a kaiju film like this before. Gloria (Hathaway) is a hapless boozer, kicked out of her boyfriend’s New
York apartment until she gets her life in order; so she retreats to her family’s empty smalltown home, and re-connects with an old childhood friend (Jason Sudeikis). Any by “re-connects”, we mean “gets drunk every day”. And then, one day, a giant creature (not Godzilla, the copyright lawyers would like to emphasise) appears in Seoul and starts trampling buildings and civilians. Gloria figures out (remarkably quickly, for such an unlikely situation) that she is connected to the creature. And then things get really weird.
Like all magic realism, it’s at its best when it’s not trying to explain or justify — when it’s still like a dream, with its own weird internal logic that makes sense as long as you’re asleep, but seems incomprehensible when you wake up. But just like Spike Jonze did with Being John Malkovich, writer/director Vigalondo can’t hold his nerve — he has to try and explain why. Vigalondo doesn’t completely break the spell, but it’s just less satisfying when he tries to explain everything. No explanation could really work — it’s too loopy to support any attempt at logic, and that’s fine. Anyone who can’t handle this level of surrealism will have already stomped off to the bar by that point. And besides, the explanation doesn’t even really hold water — no spoilers, but the precise boundaries of the phenomenon don’t correlate with… oh, never mind. (On the other hand, no explanation of any kind is offered as to why the residents of Seoul not only fail to
evacuate the city despite being stomped on night after night — they actually flock to the stomping epicentre, where police calmly herd them into easily stomped crowds.)
Hathaway is terrific as hot mess Gloria: she may look too beautiful for someone waking up contorted and hungover every morning, but she’s spot on in her small mannerisms. The way she flinches when receiving praise, the rueful naughty-labrador smile when she’s caught once again doing something she knows she shouldn’t — it’s easy to imagine men falling for her despite everything.
In all, it doesn’t completely work — it’s neither a great monster movie, nor a truly convincing character piece. Hathaway and Sudeikis are believable drunks — physically in control, mentally lurching towards a cliff — but Sudeikis’s character undergoes such a, well, monstrous transformation so quickly that it’s hard to keep up: by the fireworks scene, you’re thinking “C’mon, really?” And despite the possibilities of the obvious themes — battling our inner monsters; the way our own petty personal problems outweigh matters of life and death overseas — the film never fully engages with any of them. But it’s so admirably bonkers, such a gleefully huge swing for the fences, that it’s hard not to enjoy it no matter what.
VERDICT An oddity that would be worth seeing purely out of curiosity, but in fact delivers pleasures beyond its trippy concept — even if it never fully lives up to its potential.
“So, wait, Alfred sees you both in Florence and says nothing?”