colossal-poster2*1/2 (out of five)

Perhaps trying to be edgy, alternative, hip, cool – anything other than Oscar-winning for singing a brutally beautiful song in Les Miserables – Anne Hathaway has made a spectacularly misguided career decision in agreeing to star in Colossal, a rampaging misfire of a movie. What may have seemed like a deliriously different project on paper emerges, on screen, as a sullen, weirdly dated anti-date flick, a film for no-one with a message no-one wants.

It starts like any old (emphasis on “old”) chick-flick rom-com; Hathaway’s Gloria, being out of work in The Big Apple, is drinking too much, has been tossed out of her groovy loft by her dapper English boyfriend (Dan Stevens) and has headed back to her old house upstate to get her shit together, where she meets old school friend and now handsome and nice and very available Oscar (Jason Sudeikis). Then things get weird, but weird-bad, not weird-cool.

Spoilers, I suppose, ahead.

So far, so rom-com. But the first act turning point sees Gloria discover that she’s responsible for the huge sea lizard that’s recently begun terrorising poor Seoul. When Oscar discovers he’s responsible for a similarly malignant giant robot, the stage should be set for a really quirky romance. But no… instead, the film takes a very nasty turn and becomes not romantic but an honest-to-goodness war between the sexes film, including physical fisticuffs, man on woman. Sudeikis, I suppose, shows range, but Oscar becomes reprehensible, and the entire second half of the film is a morose examination of his relentless – and increasingly boring – bullying of Gloria. Including, as I’ve said, physical violence. There’s no kiss and make-up in the stars for these two. This isn’t 50 Shades of Grey; more like The Burning Bed.

It’s also not Arrival. I had a lot of problems with that film, but one thing it did extremely well was try to be realistic about how the world would react to an alien arrival. Colossal makes no such attempt, and, even though it’s not a “monster movie” per se, the lack of effort to even be a little believable shows contempt for the audience. There are a million plot holes, inconsistencies and logical absurdities, the biggest being that the good citizens of Seoul – and their authority figures – make no attempt to stay safe – such as by avoiding eating noodles and drinking coffee at exactly the time and place the huge beasts keep appearing and stepping on people.

The film is obviously using the monsters as metaphors for alcoholism and domestic violence – the emphasis here being obviously. This is really ham-fisted, nail-hammering, on-the-nose stuff – as clunky and over-emphatic as this sentence. And when it all ends, the final line reveals a Gloria who may have learned nothing at all. Making us the fools for wasting nearly two hours with her and her mean, awful, misogynistic friends. Salut, indeed.

Sleeping With Other People

sleeping-with-other-people-poster*** (out of five)

RomComs really haven’t changed much since the 30s. Horror films have, action films certainly have, drama has evolved in a million directions, and myriad sub-genres exist in all those forms – but RomComs still follow a template set by Bringing Up Baby and its ilk. Even the settings exhibit little variance; why set one in, say, Dubrovnik when you can set it in New York?

Sleeping With Other People, the second feature directed by Leslye Headland (Bachelorette), does what modern RomComs do in order to feel fresh: it allows sex into the equation. When Doris Day ruled the format in the 50s and 60s, there was no real need for any external conflict keeping the leads apart outside of the desire of the female to maintain her virginity (which was inherently implied) until the final reel. She had to decide she liked the guy enough to have sex with him; he had to convince her to marry him, so he could bonk her. That was all you needed.

Now, we assume our heroine has had sex before she’s met our hero. Sleeping With Other People takes this concept and front-loads it, making them both sex addicts; this frees it up to then continue down an extremely familiar path. You see it all coming a mile away, as you do with every damn RomCom.

What we’re left with, then, to get us through, is dialogue, which is generally sparkling, and chemistry, which is massive: Alison Brie (Trudy Campbell on Mad Men) and Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses) have it in spades. All of their scenes (except the shmaltzy ones, of which there are a couple too many) are funny and warm, and their dialogue, cascading from both their mouths so naturally that it feels improvised (and may well have been at any given moment), is sometimes as off-beat as real life. They are both excellent, and deserved a movie just a little bit bolder than this one, which, to its discredit, remains shackled to a template that could seriously use an update. Jason Mantzoukas, Natasha Lyonne and Amanda Peet do their usual party tricks, but Adam Scott, in a small role, does something new, and every scene he’s in is a breath of fresh air. The whole thing is horribly conventional while still being charming and relatively entertaining, which, unfortunately, makes it way above average in this rusting, snoozing genre.