[Colossal & the abusive Nice Guy]


WHEW. I just had to say that out loud.

Professional (& largely male) reviewers will tell you it has twists they don’t want to spoil, and they might add that it’s gets dark (obviously, as our lead character is a blackout-level alcoholic, a thing you learn in literally the second scene), and maybe they’ll hint that it’s not the rom-com/kaiju romp the trailer apparently suggests.

This is all true, and also it’s true that it’s a movie about domestic violence, a fact that I was unprepared for and that left me super anxious some hours after the film had ended. (Related frustration: the fact that reviews frequently discussed Gloria as a manipulator, but never as a target for abuse. This is a natural result of the male-dominated world of film criticism.)

The summary that you all know is that Gloria (Anne Hathaway) comes home after one too many nights of binge drinking to find that her boyfriend (Dan Stevens) has packed her bags. Time for her to go. So she leaves the city, camps out in her abandoned family home, runs into a former classmate, now bar owner (Jason Sudeikis), who offers her a job & an immediate social circle of (obviously all dude) barflies.

It doesn’t take too long for the monster to appear, and refreshingly it also doesn’t take long for Gloria to figure out there’s a connection. And here’s where the abusive relationship comes in: a character discovers he has power. He enjoys this power. He wants to use it. He prevents her from leaving by threatening to do harm to others. He says it will be her fault if people are hurt. He hits her.

Like I said. This is a movie about domestic violence.

I spent most of Colossal wishing that Gloria had just one female friend. She’s surrounded by men – frankly smothered by men – so at the end of the film when she finally speaks with a woman I was incredibly relieved for her.

Now, of course there are reasons for her to be isolated, and I’d argue it’s an intentional failing of the Bechdel Test. We meet her as her boyfriend is breaking up with her, and once he’s left the apartment a carload of her so-called friends rush in, including several women. They all make themselves at home in the apartment, swirling behind and around her, but not interacting with her at all. These are not friends. These are people along for the ride as she crashes & burns.

Instead, she interacts with a series of Nice Guys, including particularly a character who sees her vulnerability and uses it. He’s a rom-com trope, the small town childhood friend, now all grown and ready to take care of you, sad rom-com heroine returning from the city.

But it’s not kindness to give an alcoholic a job at a bar. It’s not generosity to furnish her home when she doesn’t remember consenting (she excuses it as conversations from when she was drunk; I don’t believe the conversations ever happened.) It is not friendship to insist a person drink when they do not want to drink. And it is unsurprising when the friends of a Nice Guy do not stop any of these things from happening. This is how Nice Guys are enabled, when other Nice Guys sit around with their beers and do not call them out on their entitled, toxic shit.

A couple of other points:

Her ex-boyfriend also turns out to be his own variety of Nice Guy, the codependent wannabe savior Nice Guy. He’s the rom-com trope of White Knight, hoping to save you, but only so you can be trapped by him instead.

The film definitely felt long, which was a combination of my personal anxiety plus some repetitiveness, but I did adore the ending.

An element that going in I thought would be a larger issue for me is the fact that this is a white woman mindlessly causing destruction in Seoul. Obviously there are themes here that could have been better handled around the West’s lack of interest in consequences our actions have in the East, but it’s also true that Hathaway’s gut-wrenching performance makes clear that *any* death and damage at her hands is too much. (& as my kaiju-loving friend points out, a hallmark of those movies is wanton destruction of faceless civilians.) Could’ve been done better; was done better than I expected.


I came out of Spotlight with one of those headaches that you get for trying not to cry for two hours. I’d expected it to be maybe not the most uplifting night out at the cinema, but I hadn’t expected to be so torn up emotionally by a movie that’s in a lot of ways an ode to journalism. But as I sat there watching the credits scroll up, I was glad I had gone alone. This was definitely not a movie I wanted to talk about on the walk home.

Continue reading “[Spotlight]”

[The Harvard Exit: All Things Must Pass]

For a while, the last film I saw at the Harvard Exit theater was Zero Motivation. It was the second film I saw in 2015. I was crushed by the sudden announcement that the theater was closing. I cried on the walk home, and I still have the quickly-fading ticket stub pinned up at my desk at work, but it all felt wrong as nearly 20 years of seeing films on Harvard & Roy came to an end.

Luckily, the Harvard Exit was briefly revived for a 25 day wake at the 2015 Seattle International Film Festival. It was already not the same, but it was important to me to be there and really know everything was happening for the last time.

Continue reading “[The Harvard Exit: All Things Must Pass]”

[Tell me something to make me love you]

Note: I wrote this a year ago for reasons that don’t need exploring at this juncture. As LAST NIGHT is one of my best beloved Canadian films, #CanFilmDay seems like a good time to send it out into the world.

In late 1999, we prepared for apocalypse. It was apt. I was a senior in college, majoring in English, with no prospects ahead of me beyond the single joke that exists about English majors, the one with the punch line: “Would you like fries with that?” Survivalist branches of my family stocked up for when the computers crashed and the world went haywire, and even though my uncle warned us that just being family wasn’t necessarily enough to be admitted into the bunker, a part of me still hoped for the global meltdown. If I didn’t survive it, fair enough. If I did, maybe I could just start over.

Continue reading “[Tell me something to make me love you]”

[The End of an Era: the Egyptian]

What was the last film you saw at the Egyptian?

Mine was the fourth Secret film, the last Sunday morning of SIFF, but I’ve signed the oath that I cannot tell anyone about it, so let’s say that the last film was the midnight film on the same day, Cockneys vs Zombies.

I thought about going to see Before Midnight again tonight, but really, Cockneys vs Zombies was in a lot of ways the perfect film to go out on. It was the last Midnight Adrenaline film of the year (and you haven’t experienced SIFF properly until you’ve heard a theater full of people cheering for programmer Dan Doody like he’s a rock star. Which he is.) It was an excited, full, hot house (a chocolate bar melted in my bag), and I was there with pretty much everyone I know in Seattle: new festival friends, old festival friends, friends from current jobs, past jobs, past lives, and friends of friends.

It was also kind of a typical Egyptian experience in that the sound was fucked up as they first started, which is particularly embarrassing when the director is in attendance, which was true that night.

Because that’s the thing about the Egyptian. If something’s going to go wrong, it’ll go wrong there. That’s where it took two tries to see The Fifth Element because the first night they couldn’t get the sound to work (though judging from the audience chants of “Aziz! Light!”, sound probably wasn’t a requirement.) It’s also where I saw a screening of the beautiful queer film Undertow, where at various points the film was green, upside down, bore a watermark, had no sound, and had no subtitles. The Egyptian has terrible sound, terrible sightlines, and a terrible view into the men’s room when you’re walking past it to concessions.

All of this is true. But I will also miss it terribly.

I don’t remember the first film I saw at the Egyptian, but it would have been shortly after I started at Seattle U in fall of 1996. I do remember the first SIFF film I saw there, which was Crocodile Tears in spring of 1997. A local film with Dan Savage in it is a harsh lesson in the ways of a SIFF ticket holders line.


* All of the Secret films. All of the midnights.

* Y Tu Mama Tambien… with people walking out during sexy bits.

* A midnight of Harold & Maude that my friend & I attended in our pajamas.

* A singalong of Chicago.

* The documentary Good Food, and the massive round of applause when all the farmers featured in the film came up and took a bow.

* The cinecast of Company.

* Celebrity sightings like Minnie Driver, Edward Norton, & of course That One Time Ewan McGregor spoke to me and I nearly passed out.

* Hustling up there after work for first Seattle screenings of films like Volver; Lust, Caution; An Education; and so many more.

* Volunteering for SIFF and SLGFF: usher, will call, box office, and other duties as assigned.

The Egyptian closes tonight, with a screening of Before Midnight, which is without a doubt one of the best films of the year. If you’ve seen the first two & you’ve been holding out on the third for some unknown reason, you should go.

I hope this is not goodbye, but goodbye for now.