Anne Hathaway plays a black-out hot mess who finds she can control a giant monster in "Colossal." (Yes, that's the plot.) Credit: Neon

Nacho Vigalondo
Stars: Anne Hathaway, Jason Sudeikis
Rating: R
4 (out of 5) Globes

Being original isn’t enough. “Being John Malkovich” isn’t a classic simply because it has a plot no normal person would have dreamed up. It’s because underneath the story of people who find a portal into the brain of enigmatic actor John Malkovich (of that jewel thief movie) lies a dark, insightful study of depression, failure and romantic delusion. The new “Colossal” features a near-“BJM”-level premise: It’s the movie where Anne Hathaway discovers she can control a giant Godzilla-like kaiju that materializes over Seoul, South Korea, provided she’s walking about a specific New Jersey playground between the hours of 8 and 9 a.m. And it, too, makes sure to have far more to it than a hook we swear we didn’t confuse with a dream we just had.

“Colossal” begins as — and remains until its end — a stingingly funny look at a 30-something hot mess. A failure as a journalist and as a picture of sobriety, Hathaway’s Gloria is dumped by her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) and booted from their NYC apartment. Crawling back to her empty childhood home in the Jersey suburbs, she intends to lick her wounds. But mostly she drinks some more, sleeps on clothes piled on a suitcase and half-assedly tends bar for an old school chum, Oscar (Jason Sudeikis), who’s clearly nursing a long-stewing thing for this black-out drunk who can’t even remember attending his dad’s funeral. She’s so in her cups she’s late to learn there’s been a giant lizard thing stomping around Seoul — much less that it’s her orchestrating the stomping, somehow and for some reason.

Of course, there is a reason why this is happening — a silly, absurdist reason “Colossal” thankfully spends little time trying to explain. After all, writer-director Nacho Vigalondo (“Timecrimes,” “Extraterrestrial”) has bigger fish to fry. It would be cruel to reveal too much, namely a mid-film twist that’s hilariously leftfield yet winds up steering the film in a far, far darker direction. It’s here that “Colossal” reveals it’s a monster movie that has more in common with an Ingmar Bergman mega-drama, in which the emotional violence characters do to each other is almost as harrowing as what kaiju-Gloria does to Seoul. Vigalondo gets a lot done, and with only six main actors and three or four chief locations, making a film filled with ideas, a wide emotional palette and peak work from not only Hathaway but also Sudeikis. And then it goes and has a killer punchline, too.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

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