Downsizing is a science fiction comedy-drama film directed by Alexander Payne and written by Payne and Jim Taylor. The film stars Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig,
The Story/The Direction:
This film is about Paul and Audrey Safranek (Damon and Wiig) who decide to go through a procedure that shrink their bodies so they can get rid of their debt and also potentially help the environment from over population. As shown in the trailer, after Paul wakes up, he finds out that Audrey is not able to go through the procedure. They divorce and he has to start his life anew. The logic behind this film is very interesting as tiny people eat less food, use less fuel and produce less waste and do not spend as much money on basic amenities. The concept is extreme but it is also logical.
Director Payne ultimately is able to create a somewhat funny but perplexing film. At the beginning of the film, it has a lot of promise as it looks at key points of environmentalism. Humans are essentially killing the Earth with overpopulation and pollution so to make things better for both the planet and the people involve, this shrinking technology is invented. This film also brings up interesting concepts such as do small people have the same voting rights as big people. It is all very interesting to think about. There is some hilarious humor that show how small these people are. You get a very big scene but then the film shows where the characters are relative to the rest of their surroundings.
At the beginning of the film, Paul is a typical nine to five worker. He goes to work then to the bar for a drink then brings home food to his wife day in and day out. After he divorces her, he interacts with his free-spirited neighbor Dusan (Waltz) and a former Vietnamese dissident Ngoc Lan Tran (Chau) who cleans Dusan's home. These interactions change his life multiple times giving him experiences that he never thought possible before he went small. However, the star of this film is Chau. Ngoc Lan sees the world differently from Paul as she lives in a poor area in the small people world. The company that sells people going small does not show this part so she opens Paul's eyes to this life. She is abrasive, honest, and sometime unsentimental. This allows for some decent moments that are both touching and hilarious.
Once the film gets past the shrinking bit, it plays out pretty boringly. However, the shrinking bit is all in the trailer and that takes up the first third of the movie. The pacing is all over the place as well. The film fast forwards multiple times in the film just so the audience can gain some sort of clarity of how long this procedure took to make. There are a few one liners that indicate Audry is going to not make it through the procedure but they are blink and you'll miss them moments. After that it becomes a film that seems to try to destroy the so called typical middle-class white American perspective and that life is not as you think it is. But Damon is fairly forgettable as Paul and due to him being the main character, it makes all of his choices boring. Payne tries to counter that with the decent Dusan and Tran but ultimately anything they do seems only in response to Paul's small minded look on life. There are even relationships that Paul forms with the new people he meets but all of them seem lack luster as the next one. Lastly, any attempt that Payne tries to make a comment on society or give you a message is honestly lazy. He makes the film about the environment then it changes to a breaking down the white middle class by showing them another side of the tracks then it goes back to the environment. The ending is very unsatisfying as the messages that Payne tries to get across never really hit the viewer hard enough to sell.
Ultimately, this film is a mid-life crisis film that makes the viewer feel that they are going through it as well. It is slow, boring, and somewhat odd at times. It had a lot of great intentions but those are only touched on minimally and then never again. While the initial concept is interesting and there are a few laugh out loud moments, the film eventually falls flat. Chau and her delivery as Tran may make this fairly average film tolerable for one viewing but that's all.
Rating: 2.5/5.0 bowties
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