Ro­man­tic com­edy vs the gi­ant lizard crea­ture

Financial Times USA - - ARTS - Nigel An­drews

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’

— Getty

Cham­pion con­struc­tor: Bruce McLaren with his McLaren-Ford M14A car at Brands Hatch in 1970

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