When I heard the basic idea for Colossal, it was enough to get me excited for the film. The idea is this: Anne Hathaway plays an alcoholic whose actions are copied by a giant monster in South Korea. When she gets drunk and loses control of her body movements, it leads to hundreds of people dying. Going into Colossal I was intrigued to see how the movie would such a unique premise.
Anne Hathaway stars in Colossal as Gloria, an alcoholic who is forced to move from New York City back to her hometown after her boyfriend kicks her out of his apartment. Gloria bumps into her old school friend Oscar, played by Jason Sudeikis, who gives her a job working at his bar. Big news hits that a giant monster keeps appearing randomly in Seoul, South Korea and Gloria discovers that the monster’s only appears whenever she sets foot in a playground. Gloria realizes that her actions have lead to many people dying. It turns out that Oscar also manifests as a giant robot when he goes into the playground. When Gloria sleeps with one of Oscar’s friends, he starts to abuse his power to control the giant robot to manipulate Gloria. This culminates in Oscar beating Gloria up and stomping around the playground while she watches. To stop Oscar, Gloria flies to South Korea while allows her to manifest as the monster at the playground in her hometown. She coops up Oscar and throws him into the distance, ending the giant robot’s reign of terror.
This movie succeeds on the strength of Anne Hathaway’s performance. While it’s hard to feel too sympathetic for Gloria, it’s undeniable that Hathaway is doing some superb acting. The same can be said for Jason Sudeikis who is doing his usual straight man routine. Colossal doesn’t completely suck because both Sudeikis and Hathaway are good at their jobs.
Watching Colossal, I felt that the movie was acceptable but not as entertaining as I was expecting. Usually I am good about tempering my expectations but this time was different. I was expecting to be blown away by this film based on some reviews I had read but I felt that the film was simply decent. I feel that Colossal could have used its premise to make for a a more entertaining film. I found myself bored watching Colossal because the stakes were not clear enough. I think the problem is that the film’s central conceit is so obviously unnatural that it becomes hard to take the movie seriously. Perhaps Colossal would have turned out better as a dark comedy instead of a drama.
I am inclined to recommend Colossal because it is an original film. It’s a film that goes against the grain of Hollywood and that is something worth championing by itself. Beyond originality, it’s hard to recommend anything about Colossal other than the performances. It’s a shame that Colossal is not a more well constructed film. We need movies like Colossal to be superb instead of just watchable. At least watching Colossal will give you some insight into what its like to be an alcoholic. The problem is not that Colossal is a bad movie. It’s that Colossal is not as good as it should be.
Manchester by the Sea stars Casey Affleck as Lee Chandler, a janitor who must become the guardian of his nephew when his brother dies of a heart attack. The film is written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan.
The film begins with Lee Chandler’s daily janitorial routine. Chandler comes across as quiet yet competent. However we also see Chandler’s dark side when he loses his temper with a customer and he gets into a fight at a bar. One day Lee learns that his brother Joe has died of a heart attack so Lee moves in with Joe’s teenage son Patrick.We learn through a flashback that Lee accidentally caused the deaths of his three children when he drunkenly forgot to place a screen in front of his fireplace. Lee and Patrick must figure out where Patrick will live following the death of Patrick’s father.
Manchester by the Sea is an easy watch due to the strength of its characterization. It’s the kind of film that makes you uncertain whether you should be laughing or crying while watching it. I’m always impressed by movies that can pull off this kind of tonal balance.
While Manchester by the Sea is clearly successful at what it attempts to do, I find myself questioning how much I should champion this film. The film is being marketed as an award-winning film and it looks the part. Manchester by the Sea is the type of film that fits so easily into an award ceremony. If it doesn’t win at least a few awards, then it will at least garner several nominations. For this reason I feel that I should avoid giving Manchester by the Sea more credit than it will most likely seem to possess during award season.
Manchester by the Sea is a great film with some serious emotional gravity. It will feel incredibly powerful while you watch it but it will disappear from your memory shortly after you leave the theater. The more I think about Manchester by the Sea, the more I want to conclude that the movie is fluff, a simplistic story that fits into an existing system that fails to present anything new or noteworthy. Manchester by the Sea is not a film that will challenge you or make you aware of something from a new perspective. Its film that knows exactly what it needs to do and does so in a workmanlike fashion, catering to your desires like a butler in a rich man’s house.
I heard a little bit of buzz about Brooklyn while it was playing in theaters but not enough to get a clear picture of the movie. Brooklyn is an Irish-Canadian-British drama directed by John Crowley and written by Nick Hornby, based on a novel of the same name. The novel was somewhat successful overseas but not exactly a huge cultural hit in the states. Brooklyn flew under the radar for me in 2015. I began to get a better idea of whether I would like the film when I saw clips of it during the 2015 Oscars. Wow, the protagonist has an Irish accent. Maybe I would enjoy this movie. Well, I enjoyed Brooklyn quite a bit. The following is my analysis of the film and celebration of what makes it great (spoilers lie ahead).
The protagonist of the film is Eilis Lacey, a young woman living in southeast Ireland with her mother and sister. Eilis works on weekends but her boss is mean and Eilis doesn’t really like Irish men because all they do is play rugby so Eilis decides to try her luck in America. She goes to Brooklyn where she lives in a boarding home with other Irish women and works at a department store. At a dance Eilis meets an Italian man named Tony with whom she develops a relationship. At this point life gets a lot better for Eilis because Tony makes her feel like Brooklyn is home. Unfortunately Eilis must go back to Ireland when her sister dies to comfort her mother. This is where the major tension of the story becomes apparent. Eilis finds that Ireland could possibly be a better place to live than America. A very eligible bachelor is interested in her and she is needed to take her sister’s job. It’s possible and perhaps likely that moving back to America would be a mistake. After talking with her old boss, Eilis remembers why she moved to America in the first place, because there are no secrets in Ireland. The film ends with Eilis and Tony reuniting happily.
Eilis is a great character and the primary reason why this film succeeds. I rooted for Eilis the entire film because she is relatable and a good person. She doesn’t smoke or wear makeup be she is respectful, religious and intelligent. She’s the kind of person that raises up the people around her. Tony is not a particularly attractive person but Eilis sees his good nature and that is enough for her. She is also genuine and able to maintain her cool in tough situations. What’s interesting is that despite all her strengths, Eilis’s life is still very difficult. When Eilis finally feels comfortable in America, life throws her a curveball, forcing her to go back to Ireland. When Eilis starts to feel comfortable in Ireland, again life throws another curveball, reminding her why she left in the first place. No matter where Eilis ends up there is going to be good and bad. The question boils down to what Eilis wants personally, not what other people want for her. I think there is value in looking at how Eilis handles the ups and downs of her life.
I also want to touch on this story’s ending. From a filmmaker’s perspective the ending is the most difficult part of the story to create. How a movie ends says a lot about the intentions behind it and how it wants the audience to feel. Brooklyn ends on what appears to be a very happy note with Eilis realizing that she belongs with Tony and the couple embracing in the streets of Brooklyn. The films wants you, the audience member, to leave with a sense of possibility, the feeling that the future is bright for Eilis and Tony. Being the misanthrope that I am, I find it difficult to accept this ending at face value. Eilis is clearly superios to Tony in several ways. She is smarter and will have many more opportunities in life than Tony, who may have great ambitions but I imagine him having difficulty making those ambitions real. The film leaves the possibility of misfortune open. Many people will accept the happy ending because the want to feel happy themselves. I entertain the possibilities of both happy and sad endings to learn more about life.
Brooklyn is certainly a movie worth watching twice or three times. It takes place in the 1950s but its themes and characters can exist in any time period. It is profoundly human and I look forward to watching it again in the future.