'Colossal' and 'Gifted' Reviews: Strange, Sweet Movies That Shouldn't Be Overlooked
By John Boone
Photo: Fox Searchlight
There's no one film set to dominate the box office this weekend -- no latest installment in an ongoing superhero universe or live-action remake that predetermines what you'll buy tickets for (unless you're really into Smurfs) -- so might I suggest two films you may have otherwise overlooked: Colossal and Gifted. Sure, both movies star huge movie stars (Chris Evans! Anne Hathaway!) but they're not huge blockbusters. (Albeit, the former does have giant monsters attacking South Korea.)
That'd be Colossal, which stars Hathaway as Gloria, an out-of-work alcoholic who, fresh off a breakup, retreats to her childhood home to dry out and try to get her life in order. There, Gloria discovers that under very specific circumstances she will manifest as a Godzilla-like monster that wreaks havoc on Seoul. As she bemoans after waking up following one of her benders, "I killed a bunch of people because I was acting like a drunk idiot again."
The movie, from Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo, is even wilder than that sounds. It is original and surreal and perfectly weird. It's a film that deals in metaphors, a meditation on the large -- sometimes literally -- consequences your actions have on others, on the always-timely topic of toxic masculinity. (Jason Sudeikis is great as Oscar, a nice guy who reveals in due time exactly how nice he isn't.)
If you're looking for some sort of rehabilitation of Anne Hathaway -- because you're still a Hathahater, because you somehow managed to leave The Intern un-charmed -- this can be that too. Firstly, congratulations on recently celebrating another anniversary of That Time You Decided You Didn't Like Anne Hathaway Because, I Dunno, She's So...Ugggh, Ya Know? (Actor-y about her craft? Earnest while winning an Oscar?) Gloria is a f**k up. Things have not gone her way, but in a way that's more relatable than Hathaway's character in Les Mis. (Hopefully!!!) The actress plays Gloria as cool without making her a "Cool Girl." It's a role I could easily see Emma Stone or Jennifer Lawrence playing, but Hathaway nails it, so what a dream she got the chance. It came true.
From a monster movie that critiques male entitlement to perhaps the most charming man ever: Frank, the "quiet, damaged hot guy," as he is described at one point in Gifted, played with tenderness by (the, yes, hot) Chris Evans. Frank becomes the de facto guardian of his late sister's daughter, Mary (the instantly lovable McKenna Grace), a child prodigy whose gift is exposed on her first day of first grade.
Gifted comes courtesy of Marc Webb, who most recently directed The Amazing Spider-Man movies (the Andrew Garfield ones), though this feels more in line with his breakout, (500) Days of Summer. Gifted is more unashamedly heartfelt than even that, in the best ways. It's the movie version of a hug, warm and cozy. Evans and Grace so sweetly play off each other in the type of relationship that seemingly only exists onscreen -- I can't vouch for prodigies in real life. Evans and Jenny Slate (a delight as Mary's schoolteacher) have such wonderful, natural chemistry that it's no surprise they got together. (It is surprising they ever broke up.) I would wish Gifted were a rom-com between their characters, except that everything else was great too.
Conflict arises when Frank's estranged mother and Mary's grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), enters the picture. There is no bad guy, no mustache-twirling villain, just people at odds over what's best for Mary. Frank wants to give her a normal life ("Dumb her down into a decent human being," he tells Mary's principal), while Evelyn thinks she is destined for greatness. In the end, it's a story of family dysfunction rooted in differential algebra (or whatever). It's a movie about love. And I cried when it was sweet, I cried when it was sad. I cried the first time I saw it and the second, too. I'm sure I'll cry when I see it again. It's just such a lovely movie.