As is appropriate for its sizable title, there are many things in the movie Colossal that are big: the monster that is mysteriously connected to Anne Hathaway, the immensity of male entitlement that weighs upon her, an airplane (airplanes are very big), but most of all, her wig. Hathaway performs underneath a Starbucks-logo-ready shock of brunette frizz that foams over her shoulders in every scene. Her character, Gloria, is an alcoholic who has returned home to try, and fail, to get her life together. Her imperfect wig, massive and ungainly, fits her perfectly — it’s a mess, and it’s never going to change.
Let’s run down Anne Hathaway’s wig’s major accomplishments in Colossal: It arrives on top of Gloria’s head as she enters the film at the end of a bender, exasperating her boyfriend, capturing “end of night bleeding into morning” hair. It stays with Gloria as she hangs out with Jason Sudeikis’s Oscar at his bar, giving us some “oh no, I’m slipping into old habits” realness. It allows the extremely likable (or hateable, for some very wrong people) actress to transform her appearance. It serves a major plot point, which we won’t reveal, but involves the fact that Gloria always has an itch right at the top of her head, which just so happens to be where her hair is parted. The wig looks very itchy, so this is all believable.
A good wig shouldn’t draw attention to itself. It hides in the background. You might not realize it’s a wig until after you’ve seen the movie. Many wigs fit this category, and frankly, it would be impolite to single them out. A bad wig, like Kate Mara’s shambolic reshoots wig in Fantastic Four or Julia Roberts’s recycled Mother’s Day Notting Hill wig, stands out for all the wrong reasons. A great wig, however, might remind you it’s a wig and still be convincing for a character. The Americans has a clearance sale’s worth of spy wigs, which cap the grim series with grace notes of levity. American Hustle went all-in on noticeable wigs, but frankly, it overshot.
Colossal has a way of arriving at serious themes through silly ones. The movie mixes pulpy genre fare with realistic small-scale drama, and turns a monster gimmick into a story about an abrasive woman facing some, but crucially not all, of her demons. Colossal doesn’t always go for laughs, but it never takes itself too seriously. In some parts, you might worry that Colossal’s verging into melodrama, or that the stakes are getting out of its control — Anne Hathaway keeps accidentally killing people in a major urban metropolis, the depiction of commonplace misogyny is deeply unsettling — but then you look at Anne Hathaway’s wig and have something of a reminder of the film’s inherent silliness. This is all still a fable, a tall tale, something to convey a message and also entertain you. Long live smart monster movies, and silly monster wigs.