Romantic comedy vs the giant lizard creature
It must be an accident of judgment that Colossal got made at all. The gall of it. The daring. The impudence. Who in Hollywood gave this film the green light, never mind the greenbacks?
It’s a romcom that turns savage. It even starts a little scary. Is that really sweet-featured Anne Hathaway looking, in her first scene, so dark-eyed and draggle-haired? (She resembles the waif clambering from the well in Ring.) She’s in a relationship crisis (Dan Stevens). Then soon after the story’s start, she leaves the city for her home town to reset her psyche. But her psyche first meets Jason Sudeikis, local bar owner and one-time dangerous schoolmate. Then it does battle with nightly TV bulletins of a Godzilla-sized lizard creature ravaging Seoul, South Korea. Fake news? Apparently not.
As a genre cocktail it’s heady, zany, rambunctious. A romantic comedy climbs into a glass with an Oriental monster flick and writer-director Nacho Vigalondo ( Timecrimes, Open Windows) shakes it till everyone feels giddy. Both inside and outside the glass. “Did you like it?” a colleague asked me as we left. “There wasn’t time,” I said. It’s true. The audience is too caught up in the vertigo and tremors of an escalating storyquake to know quite what it feels, beyond the need to survive.
Hathaway’s psyche might be the cause of all this happening. Soon there’s a giant robot too, trampling Seoul. Might that be Sudeikis’ psyche? We are in a hive of paranormal avatars, a stir of telekinetic souls and surrogates. And we suspect the filmmaker has, sometimes, as tremulous a grip on his story as we. Can a movie really combine credible, empathising, star-enacted human characters with one of those crash-bang monster plots in which it barely matters that hundreds die?
But maybe that’s the point. Orson Welles to Joseph Cotten, gazing down from the big wheel in The Third Man: “Would you really care, old man, if one of those dots stopped moving?” Colos
sal’s message may be that our humongous hates, desires and narcissisms as individuals not only can destroy others but do; and when they do we barely care — at least if the fallout is far, far away. We go on obsessing about our own lives, selves and feelings. This is a weird film. A little amazing. A little shocking. A little — no, quite a lot — worth seeing. I don’t know what King Arthur: Leg
end of the Sword is supposed to be. Guy Ritchie directs (and co-wrote) as if making Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Crossbows. Pre-medieval Britain is a plague of cockney banter. “Oy, bofe ’ands!” yells David Beckham, no less, as a supervising yeoman to Charlie Hunnam’s Arfur, as the boy/man pulls the fabled sword from the papier-mâché rock.
The only posh vowels come from Jude Law as King Vortigern, the man who reigned, apparently, between Uther and Arthur. Law re-proves that in Ritchie World posh baddies are the ones you hate, working-class baddies are the ones you love, and goodies — well, they’re just boring but necessary. Dialogue and accents soon go thataway anyway. The movie becomes a long, unstoppable, barely sufferable explosion of digi-battle scenes, digi-pachyderms, digi-snakemonsters, digi-Armageddon. It’s The
Lord of the Rings out of Warcraft, by way of Bow Bells and Bedlam.
For an oppressive theocracy, Iran has a dazzling PR machine in its film industry. Even with Jafar Panahi no longer at liberty and Abbas Kiarostami no longer alive, Iranian movies cry their beloved country with courage and candour. At least in the movie theatres of other countries, to which the films are often exiled. The title of Behnam Behzadi’s Inver
sion has two meanings. The toxic smog of Tehran — temperature inversion — forces unmarried Niloofar ( Sahar Dolatshahi) to consider heeding a doctor’s advice to move her ailing mother to the country. Another “inversion”, the disloyal, adversarial scheming of her two siblings, each with his/her own family interests, allows them to use “Niloo”’s single status as the lever of their selfishness.
No husband? No kids? No need for her to stay in the city, then. Even with friends, a clothing business and a new boyfriend. (Actually, cleverly, he’s a past suitor back in the picture, a man with his own family interests to problematise Niloo’s independence of choice and judgment.) The movie itself is a cousin to The
Salesman and A Separation, Asghar Farhadi’s two Oscar-winning examinations of Iranian society through the lens of Iranian domestic life. Behzadi’s humanist miniaturism is so subtle — so “ordinary” on the surface — that at times it could pass for soap opera. But the characters are intertwined with a lethal craft. And their dilemmas of guilt or conscience are so fine and nuanced that we barely perceive the process by which the film gathers its satirical and symbolic density.
If you want delicacy in a comedy, stay away from Snatched. Goldie Hawn, you break my heart. Amy Schumer (co-star and co-producer), woe upon you. You made the wonderful Trainwreck. This film starts at full cry, very funny as Amy’s self-pitying, cherub-cheeked klutz corrals scatty, depressive mum Goldie into replacing the boyfriend who has walked out on her fully-booked Ecuador holiday for two. Then the film dies like roadkill. Splat. Or squish. The two get kidnapped and we’re off into jungles, slapstick, pratfalls and unfunny LatAm comedy villains. It’s too dire to think of. Close your eyes and think happier thoughts of, say, Trainwreck 2.
McLaren is not exactly Senna and certainly not Rush. Bruce McLaren was a medium-charismatic racing star: a New Zealand gasoline-head with guy-nextdoor looks and four Grand Prix wins but no championships. Yet he was the champion constructor of all time. McLaren cars became a clarion call to drivers seeking speed, style and stadium domination. The Bruce career is made all the more amazing, argues New Zealand filmmaker Roger Donaldson ( The Bounty), by the Bruce boyhood. Two years of it were spent strapped to a frame to cure, or alleviate, a bone condition: his legs were different-length ever after. McLaren suffered a catastrophic accident — an essential for motor-racing documentaries — when his car spun off a practice track at fatal speed, ensuring the poignant immortality glow of a young death. He was 32.
Weird: Jason Sudeikis and Anne Hathaway in ‘Colossal’
Champion constructor: Bruce McLaren with his McLaren-Ford M14A car at Brands Hatch in 1970