Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Udo Kier, Rolf Lassgård, Ingjerd Egeberg, Søren Pilmark, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Laura Dern, Neil Patrick Harris, James Van Der Beek
RunTime: 2 hrs 15 mins
Rating: NC-16 (Some Drug Use)
Released By: UIP
Opening Day: 11 January 2018
Synopsis: Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in Omaha in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.
This is Alexander Payne’s first effects-based movie, but hopefully not his last, considering Downsizing bombed big time in the States. Payne known for his satirical funny works - Sideways, Nebraska andThe Descendants just to name a few - seems to be at a loss tackling science fiction mixed with social messages. It’s sadly an overall misfire considering the fact that Payne seldom disappoints.
It’s the near future and scientists in Norway have come up with a way to shrink human beings to the size no bigger than a Lego mini figure. Touted as one of the ways to save the ailing Earth and to save everyone’s shrinking pockets, financially-strapped occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decides to go through the irreversible “downsizing” process and move to Leisureland where they can live in comfort in a confined community for “small people”.
At the very last minute however, Audrey develops cold feet while Paul has completed the procedure and relocated to Leisureland in his “downsized” form. At this point, we have reached barely 40 minutes into the 135 minutes movie. If you have been following the trailers, they basically showed you everything for the first half. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to avoid trailers nowadays to avoid disappointment.
The premise of Downsizing is cheeky, fun and thoughtful, and given the trustworthy records of Payne and his frequent collaborator Jim Taylor, you can expect meaningful jabs at sociopolitical problems and greedy corporations. Unfortunately, the second half of the movie is a huge letdown, considering a lot of interesting points were raised with the introduction of Leisureland in the beginning. There are so many ideas being thrown around but none of it actually addressed in the end.
What follows is a boring journey to the very first small community hidden in Norway where the issue of human extinction is raised. Ultimately, it’s a boring, overlong movie that tries too hard to sync. Damon of course is perfect as the average American. The character of Paul is an underachiever who unwittingly met with roadblocks all the time despite his best attempt to improve his life. You probably sympathized with Paul because anyone might be Paul in real-life.
Blessed with excellent comic timing and exaggerated accented English, the breakthrough character of Lan Tran, a gung-ho Vietnamese political activist played by newcomer Hong Chau is a joy to watch - the fact that she is given the funniest dialogue to work with actually helps. Adding on to his resume, Christoph Waltz again plays another character with a weird accent. Cameos include Jason Sudeikis (Horrible Bosses), Neil Patrick Harris (How I Met Your Mother) and Laura Dern, just seen in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
Downsizing boasts nifty visual effects from ILM, a first for Payne. No doubt it helps in the storytelling, the whimsical and eye-popping effects are wasted in the disastrous scripting for a talent like Payne. Payne should just go back on doing his movies on a smaller scale instead of squandering his time and effort on such an expensive, aimless outing.
(Brilliant concept, pity the execution, remember to downsize your expectation)
Review by Linus Tee