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In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple who believes their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, by these shrunken people needed much less resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper, but doesn't exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn't wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to takeover. This is a movie that could've done so much more with its premise.
Without giving anything away, there are many characters that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul (Matt Damon) and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it's hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.
As soon as you're brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how well the comedic aspects come into play, but what you don't expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don't think really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.
In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn't make a film great. It's the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn't do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn't expect it it, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it. This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it's just not the product that you'll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing is worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn't get your hopes up on it being a favourite of yours.
Trying to solve the overpopulation issue, a group of Norwegian scientists creates a way to shrink people to 13 centimeters in order to reduce the consume and the environmental impact that mankind is generating on Earth. In front of promise of better life, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), an average couple, decide to leave behind their stressful life in Omaha and to be shrunk in order to live in miniature community and at the same time being able to have the glamorous life they could never afford in "real size world". I must confess that this plot hasn't attracted me at first and if this story was conducted by a less experienced or talented director this might have been a huge disaster.
The environmental matter that was supposed to be the main goal of shrink process is soon misrepresented and begins to be used as by average people, whom not having great expectations in real life see in this process a way to achieve their consumerism goals and finally being able to obtain all the material goods they couldn't before (this is due to the fact that their money is multiplied thousands times at the miniature communities). The movie provokes rich debates on where we are heading to as society and if there would be still hope on human being, since it appears that no matter how, we are still trying to take advantage on others.
Starts with an incredible series of humorous scenes one after another.
Serious issues are also addressed giving it scope and depth as well as laughs.
Christoph Waltz as always plays a fantastically eccentric character, Matt Damon as always is OK, but who really steals the show here is a new Vietnamese actress who is amazing.
She is a Gem. In a jewel of a role.
Look for a best supporting Oscar nod for her.
She has the cleverest character and the wittiest dialog in the whole film. She shines radiantly.
Lots of fun for everyone.
Brought back memories of a laugh a minute "Lars and the Real Girl" a few years back at Tiff.
Looking through the story is Paul Safranek, played by Matt Damon. Damon brings a lovable charm and wit to Paul who represents the middleman that dreams of something greater. When Paul gets the chance to start over thanks to downsizing, this doesn't go as well as he planned. His wife Audrey abandons him before she can get downsized, he ends up working in a mediocre job in Leisureland and begins to see how flawed and unfair the world really. The real standout of this movie though is Hong Chau. While Damon's Paul represents the average American citizen, Chau's Ngoc Lan stands as voice of the lower class. As an activist that argued against her Vietnamese government's inhuman ways, she was sent to prison, lost a leg and later downsized to no longer be a bother to the system. Chau brings what could have been a one-dimensional stereotype an amazing sense of humour, and emotional complexity. When Paul begins to look at Leisureland's flawed class system through her eyes, it takes these characters on a huge life-altering journey. Also we finally get to see Christoph Waltz have a fun and memorable as Paul's rich, contraband-dealing neighbour Dusan.
Payne and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael use scale to create stunning and hilarious shots. When we start with Paul at normal height, the shots are wide and open with negative space. Once we enter Leisureland, the shots and sets become more compact to make you feel the change in size. Payne definitely takes advantage of this being shrinking movie to bring so many hilarious visual gags from having a giant rose sitting on a dinner table to beautifully directing the funny sequence of Paul's downsizing procedure.
The movie however struggles a bit with the narrative. It moves from one kind of story to another as it is tackling so much political subject matter. It did feel like it was different scripts that the crew worked on before combining them all into one. Kristen Wiig as Paul's wife Audrey felt like the cast member most affected by the in-balanced plot structure, as her screen-time was so short in comparison to the movie's run-time. The third act does become a little heavy-handed about global warming leading to a bit of bleak tone.
But the movie in the end redeems itself when it cuts back to Paul's character growth. Despite some narrative issues, Payne doesn't loose sight of Downsizing's uplifting message: No matter how small we are or how large our problems will get and whether it is the fear of our crumbling society, a dying Earth or death itself, the solution is to face it not avoid it.
If I would have watched the previews I would have seen all the plot points and it would have killed many of the jokes and the tender moments. I've said too much already. See this film and don't know a thing about it. It's a work of art.
I have to say, the cast is extraordinary! My favorite performance in this movie didn't come from Matt Damon though, or Christoph Waltz, Neil Patrick Harris, Udo Kier, Kristn Wiig or Rolf Lassgård. The star of the movie is Hong Chau. She will annoy you and make you laugh at the same time and she gets better and better the longer this movie goes, which is btw around 20mins to long.
The rating of this film actually depends strongly on if you want to see it as a light hearted comedy, or a social satire. As a satire, it would fail, as all the meaning of this gets lost in kind of lame jokes. IF you want to considers this a light comedy though, fair enough, switch of your brain and enjoy the fun in this SciFi Comedy. I think this is not what the director intended us to do, but it just happens. Of course you think about "What would I do", but sooner or later, you will be a bit bugged by the inconsistency of the film logic and the story telling process, so you are better off, not using your brain to much.
If you are looking for a light hearted comedy this Christmas, feel free to check Downsizing out. It won't thrill the critics to much, but it will do well at the box office! Christoph Waltz alone brings a smile to your face again and of course, Hong Chau!!!