Downsizing

Directed by three-time Oscar nominee Alexander Payne best known for 2004’s Sideways, 2011’s The Descendants, 2013’s Nebraska, Downsizing is an intriguing yet ultimately rudderless film with a very unique twist and applaudable acting performances. I was surprisingly letdown by what was advertised as a comedy with a fun and preposterous premise and came away disappointed by the lackluster effort put forward by a very talented filmmaker. The story revolves around the scientific discovery of being able to shrink humans to only five inches tall as a way of reducing the environmental footprint of humanity. Paul, played by Matt Damon, and his wife Audrey, played by Kristen Wiig, are a middle-aged couple stuck in a rut living in Omaha who decide one day to undergo the procedure known as downsizing. They are convinced after meeting up with their high school friend Dave, played by Jason Sudeikis, who enjoys the financial benefits of living small. They are all prepared to live the rest of their days as small people living in the luxurious Leisureland community, but Audrey has grave misgivings about leaving her family. Eventually, Paul lives alone as a downsized person in a small apartment located in Leisureland after his wife decides not to downsize and files for divorce. Living a rather boring life at a dead-end job, he decides to go partying with his upstairs neighbor and Serbian playboy Dusan, played by an affable Christoph Waltz, who is wealthy from his black market dealings. Further changing his worldview, Paul runs into a Vietnamese refugee and housekeeper named Ngoc Lan Tran, played by Hong Chau whose performance is the highlight of the movie, who is very charitable to the poor residents despite her financial situation. Paul becomes close friends with her and eventually romantic feelings develop between the two. In yet another strangely abrupt and unnecessary plot shift, Paul along with his new and unusual friends embark on a journey to the original downsized community in remote Norway. They learn from the Norwegian scientist who invented the procedure that mankind is in peril as a result of the irreversible environmental impact of full-sized people. Thereby, the movie drastically shifts to becoming a drama about the environment after the first third of the film plays out like a satirical comedy. Overall, I was impressed by the filmmaker’s creativity in concocting such a bizarre concept; however, the film’s execution fails its great potential as a result of jumbled plotlines and largely unsympathetic characters besides Ngoc. 

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