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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 fewer 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 take over. 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 it 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 to, 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 favorite of yours.
The problem with 'Downsizing' is its Screenplay, Written by Payne & Jim Taylor. It has big ideas, despite being a story about going small, but ends up saying nothing, while trying to be everything. Let's get into that in a bit..
'Downsizing' tells the story of a couple (Matt Damon & Kristen Wiig) who undertake a procedure to shrink their bodies so they can start a new life in an experimental community. When the wife refuses the procedure at the last minute, the husband has to reassess his life and choices.
'Downsizing' begins as a film about a middle-class Omaha couple deciding to shrink themselves for a better life in dreamy land called Leisure Town, where shrinking yourself make your troubles & size, smaller. Now that's interesting! And 'Downsizing' works wonders until it works on the premise it promises to be.
BUT, 'Downsizing' only flirts with the idea of going small, it instead, becomes a tonally jarring film, whose narrative is as broken as america's current political scenario.
Right after Damon's passive protagonist hero shrinks himself, the film shifts gear into another rhythm that is surprisingly ineffective. So when Hong Chau (sensational & the best thing about this film) shows up as another tiny one, you are assured that 'Downsizing' isn't headed the way it started off. And just when Chau becomes the character you begin rooting for, the narrative suddenly turns into something catastrophic. By the time the 3rd plot kicked in, I had given up!
Payne hasn't made a bad film, he has clearly made a confused film. Or is this 3 films into one film while being 3 in 1? Its this simple: It was about shrinking yourself for your own good. And it remains that for 45-minutes. But the rest of the 90-minutes, are nothing of what it was meant to be. The other track involving Chau's scene-stealing performance, is interesting for a bit, but it doesn't last beyond 25-minutes. And the last track involving a catastrophe, is devoid of any emotion. By the time 'Downsizing' ends, you'll be confused what too feel for it. And what was it trying to say? Shame, because Payne is a master at his craft.
Barring Chau, No other performer really stands out. Damon is barely at his best, while Waltz at least has come fun. The rest are strictly okay.
On the whole, 'Downsizing' aims big but falls pretty short. Ouch.
I watched this movie for free and I still want my money back. It was extremely long, boring, no storyline, no plot. After the first 30 minutes, everything seems 'normal sized' like in any other movie because you are just in the downsized world so everything seems 'normal'. There is no contrast between the real world and the downsized world because they completely stopped showing the real world.
I don't know what the point of this movie was. The premise was clever but the execution just wasn't there. Seems like they got a good idea and forgot to write a story.
Some things to think about: If in the real world, your $1 can be $10,000 times, then why are there still 'projects' and extreme poverty stricken people in the downsized world? How did they get $15,000 regular money to get the procedure done only to become downsized and remain in their awful conditions? And if they had even $100 saved up, that would be equivalent to 1 million dollars so why exactly are they so poor?
The final third is bizarrely thrust upon the audience without warning. Downsizing becomes passionate about the plight of the poor. Slums are shown to exist in the perfect world created by the scientists. Very small people still are people and carried their problems, flaws and prejudices with them into Tiny Town. Who woulda thought? Anybody with a brain. The social criticism is so unexpected and heavy handed it seems like it was spliced in from another movie.
This is not a comedy. This is not a dramedy. This is not a competently made film. What it is, is a poorly directed mess with some big name stars.
There are some very good performances among the players supporting Paul, Matt Damon's profoundly uninteresting lead character, including Hong Chau as a Vietnamese housekeeper who becomes a large figure in Paul's life, Christopher Waltz as a playboy neighbor, and Rolf Lassgård as a Norwegian scientist whose work led to the bio-shrinking process. Photography is wonderful in paces, particularly the fjords of Norway. Visual effects are both stunning and realistic, though at times the scale of "big people" vs "small people" are not entirely consistent from scene to scene. Industrial Light & Magic creates a stunning visual depiction of the Utopian city "small people" city of Leisureland. Writer and Director Alexander Payne builds several entertaining scenes during the initial 45 minutes of screen time as Paul's decision to "go small" is agonizingly made and carried out.
It is in the scrip that Payne and Co-Writer Jim Taylor fail. Indeed, the only entertaining bits are long stretches without any dialogue at all. Starting with a thought-provoking premise, no conflict is introduced into the story for the first 45 minutes, at which time it is revealed that Paul's wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) reneged on her promise to join Paul in the "small" community. She disappears and is never seen again beyond an awkward sight-gag phone call involving one eyebrow. The entire wife character could have been omitted as surplus filler, and probably should have been. Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern are similarly wasted as a couple who present a sales pitch for the downsizing process as though it were a time-share. Jason Sudekis walks through as a downsized friend from Paul's high school years. We are asked to believe that the newly-constructed "small" Utopian society has been purposely built to include a shantytown to which all the "ethnics" (mostly Spanish-speaking) are exiled, just beyond an impenetrable wall, a poorly concealed statement on contemporary politics. By the end, this movie becomes a tale of the End of Days in which we are told it was already too late to save mankind from itself; there was never any hope and we just didn't know it soon enough.
Moviegoers may be forgiven for not only disliking this movie, but also being for angry at having been duped into paying money to be shown something entirely different than was advertised. Those who believe that mankind should be punished and exterminated might enjoy this movie. All others should avoid it.
"Downsizing" was marketed as a harmless comedy with a silly premise. Matt Damon as a down-on-his-luck everyman who decides to undergo a trendy new procedure where he's shrunk down to five inches tall, thus allowing him to live large in a miniature utopia. His wife gets cold feet, leaving him stranded in the strange new world. Unable to go back, he learns to love it, both through the perks of drinking shots from a now-giant bottle of Absolut Vodka, and from helping those less fortunate than he now is.
I went into this movie fully expecting the story to play out exactly like that. I was okay with that. I thought the premise had a lot of opportunities for comedy, like the scene from the trailer where Damon's told to sign his name "as big as he can" on his divorce documents. I wanted to see what other gags they came up with (and with the R rating, I hoped, lots of the raunchy kind). But "Downsizing" is a film that hates its own premise - and its audience. And it isn't a comedy.
This is, unbelievably, an environmental film. We learn before the title card - but after you've bought your ticket - that the scientist behind this process intended for everyone to voluntarily be shrunk in order to lessen their carbon footprint. Having a message is fine, but this film is completely unsuited to it. I wanted to know so much more about what it was like in the miniature towns, how they're maintained, and the massive changes in society caused by an increasing portion of the population choosing to cloister themselves in remote parts of the world. But details like this are ignored by the film, brushed aside in order to push its environmental message.
The environmental message puts an immediate stop to the comedy at around the twenty-minute mark. It's here, after the aforementioned divorce, that Matt Damon loses his house in the settlement, is forced to live in an apartment under a sociopathic Christoph Waltz, and befriends a Vietnamese refugee who lives in a miniature slum located just outside the compound's exterior wall. From this point forward, this is a completely different film. I'll admit, the idea of there still being inequality in this utopia was interesting to me, as I thought we could explore the limitations of the world of the film. But the film chooses not to do this because that would have meant that our environmentally-conscious scientist who came up with all this was an imperfect character, and the film couldn't have that. Once again, the message hamstrung the film.
The only purpose of the bizarre slum scene is introducing a Vietnamese refugee who apparently was sent overseas in a TV box, a brutal and inappropriately comedic allegory to human trafficking. This refugee is one of the worst characters in the film - loud, obnoxious, and stubborn. While we first empathize with her as someone forced to clean houses for a living, we next see her steal painkillers from her boss, give her roommate too many of them so that she dies from an overdose, and never thanks Damon for his help, including fixing her fake leg.
One of the many things the Vietnamese girl forces Damon to do is bring her along on a trip to Norway, where both learn from the creator of "downsizing" that all of humanity is going to go extinct because a methane bubble released from a melting Antarctic ice shelf is being released into the atmosphere. Both happen to arrive at the scientist's compound just in time for them to escape into a subterranean tiny town for 8,000 years until the atmosphere corrects itself. Damon wants to go along, but the Vietnamese girl won't go, and guilts him out of it. And so, Damon returns to his miniature home, confronting his own death.
You may be thinking that all this sounds depressing. You're right. Worst movie to release on Christmas since "Marley and Me." Late in the third act, there are three moments thrown in for comedic effect. Each is so jarring that they feel completely out-of-place and inappropriate because by then, you've completely forgotten that this movie had a few laughs in the first act.
The message continues to bludgeon you to the very last frame. The environment. The environment. The environment. Any character who questions this is written off as a crackpot (and they're invariably white). This includes Damon's dying mother, who asks the perfectly logical question why scientists are more concerned with shrinking people than curing her illness. There's also a man at a bar who asks why downsized people should vote when they essentially live on reservations maintained by full-sized people, often pay no taxes, and are wholly unconcerned with the outside world even though one well-placed bomb could wipe them all out.
It's also a tone-deaf film when you really get down to it. The trailers seemed to set up for a theme about the pursuit of happiness, where perhaps Damon finds himself choosing a kind of life he already had before the procedure. But the lesson instead seems to be that humanity is bad, that we're all the seeds of our own destruction, doomed to die like dinosaurs. So the best way to save us all is to shrink ourselves to the point that none of us are big enough to build a spacecraft large enough to stop the asteroid that will crash into the planet and kill us all anyway.
The film also did a great job of making you not want to get "downsized." From getting your hair and eyebrows shaved to getting a big rubber thing stuck up your rear end, to being forced to drive the same tiny bland white electric cars, there's just not much of a list of positives here. The community Damon picks doesn't even seem all that nice - just move to Tustin and save yourself the medical costs. Plus, there isn't even anything to do - no miniature sports teams or movie theaters. They all seem to just sit around and talk, as if everyone who does this is just the most interesting person, and conversation is all they need to get by on. I love that they mentioned having three Cheesecake Factories in one community, as if someone is going to sell all their possessions and shrink themselves just to work at the Cheesecake Factory.
For a film trying desperately to be contemporary, "Downsizing" is a terrible title, too. The only context for the term is being let go by your job, a reality facing too many in recent years. Turning the word into a positive with some environmental spin is just stupid to me.
But, hey, there's lots of full frontal male nudity in this movie. That creepy, clinical, Westworld-style nudity. Don't know why that was in there and not, say, that Absolut Vodka scene from every trailer Paramount made for this movie.
We need to have truth in advertising when it comes to movie trailers. There was a clear intent by both Paramount and Matt Damon to mislead moviegoers into thinking they were seeing some kind of fun "Honey, I Shrunk The Kids!" film, but with adult humor deserving its R rating. What we get instead is the same thing that's on every news channel - politics, politics, and more politics. I'm tired of it, and you should be, too.
Start being part of the solution by not seeing this movie.
P.S. I'm not going to carp about this without offering solutions, so here goes: if you're not going to make this a comedy, why not make it an action movie? They put Jason Bourne in it for Pete's sake. Why not have the scientist who came up with the program be the villain who looks over the tiny town like Cristof in "The Truman Show," getting off on playing God by causing disasters and demanding obedience from those under his control. Maybe he even stomps his way through the town himself (like a Godzilla film or that mole scene in "Arrested Development"). Illustrate the changes in the law allowing him to get away with it, or how authorities turn a blind eye in favor of their own interests. Have Damon reach a moment like in "Attack on Titan" where he realizes everyone who's been downsized is someone deemed unfit by the ruling class, that their world is not a home, but a prison. Then have him spearhead some kind of "Gulliver's Travels" effort to negotiate the compound and take down the scientist. Boom. Come on, Hollywood, where's my check?
One nice word: Actress Hong Chau acts the heck out of a dumb role. Well done.
Money has been proven to solve some, but not all problems. Anyone can just throw money to make a quick fix, but what about permanent solutions? Isn't that another definition of acquiring wealth? To finds ways to figure out what makes us unhappy? As life has shown, easy answers are rare. Whether a problem is a society one or a personal one, that requires a different kind of work that no money can fix. Downsizing cuts into that factor.
In the near future, scientists have fostered a way to shrink humanity to not only solve an environmental crisis, but to provide a new gateway to riches; smaller people means smaller usage of resources, therefore, a dollhouse can now become a mansion. This has lured a lot of people into "downsizing", but of course there is a catch; it's irreversible. So those that go in are staying that size.
This doesn't seem to bother occupational therapist Paul (played by Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (played by Kristen Wiig) who are financially strapped and want an easier life. Though Paul goes through with it, Audrey backs out and files for a divorce, leaving the poor guy in the same boat he was at full size; unhappy.
Now living in an apartment, he's taken a call center job for Lands End while trying to figure out what to do with himself. Along the way, he encounters a party animal neighbor Dusan (played by Christopher Waltz) and a Vietnamese housecleaner Ngoc Lan Tran (played by Hong Chau) who was once a political prisoner, shrunken against her will. These people put Paul to the test on whether "downsizing" really does fix humanities problems.
I have to give Downsizing a lot of credit for ambition. It's a good setup that could be examined heavily. Director Alexander Payne (Nebraska, The Descendants) certainty knew that and tries to examine a lot of issues like climate change, refugee crises, and class separation. Rather then crafting a flow and mixture, the script seems to throw everything into a blender, hoping that part of it sticks. This results in not only a clunky narrative that can't seem to pick a plot, but tone that's uneven, trying to mix Midwestern dilemma to science fiction to fantasy-like utopia.
Alexander Payne is better at directing his actors, as everyone feels right at home. Matt Damon does well as an ordinary man whose trying to find purpose. Christoph Waltz again plays eccentric and goofy in a playful manner, even if we've seen it before. My favorite is the one that people will be split on, Hong Chau. One the one hand, she plays a stereotype of an Asian immigrant who speaks broken English. I should be angry at this,,, but not only is she great playing that stereotype, but she's heartfelt in a way that we really root for her.
So why couldn't Alexander Payne had taken the same care with the script as his other movies? It seems that he should have either picked one of the many issues he brings up and go at it or really work on the script to craft something bigger. The story that is presented just seems to bring up an issue, drop it, go for another, maybe return to an old one and... that's pretty much Downsizing. Without giving anything away, the overall moral seems to be "Love thy neighbor". Not only does it feel very redundant and a rushed answer to everything, but other movies like It's a Wonderful Life have tackled that philosophy better.
I'll give this four yellow roses out of ten. Downsizing in an unfortunate dud from one of my favorite directors. It's ironic that a movie about shrunken people couldn't have said something larger. It's dull and rambling...a lot like that great uncle relative you have whose nice, but lacks anything of true worth. Let this shrink into nothing.
But, approximately halfway through the movie, something mysterious and unexpected happened. The sensation was so foreign I scarcely comprehended what was happening.
I was enjoying the movie!
Although "Downsizing" isn't exactly the most creative premise ever devised, the first half of the movie worked beautifully. I think a lot of filmgoers were disappointed to discover this movie is NOT akin to an amusement park 4D movie, where you are shown what it would be like to be smaller than a dandelion or bird. This is social commentary about economics and the human race.
As such, I loved where this movie was going: Even in a society of staggering plenty, where an average Joe can afford a 10,000 sq. ft. mansion, nothing much is different. There is still divorce, alienation, obnoxious wealth, drugs, and an invisible, impoverished, foreign underclass that toils and suffers in the shadows. Brilliant.
But then, inevitably, the iron law of Hollywood kicked in: IN THE YEAR 2017, ALL MOVIES HAVE TO SUCK. Of course. It's not fair, but it's the law.
So, ultimately, it came as little surprise that the last 1/3 of the movie was a crap-fest about global warming, or something, and the world is ending because of methane, or something, but is it ending tomorrow or in two centuries, we don't know because we're not really told, and all the holier-than-thou environmentalists and scientists are going to go live in their hole-in-the-ground so humanity can survive, and yada yada yada. It was like a completely different movie, and it RUINED A PERFECTLY GOOD FILM.
But in the end, all that matters is the movie fully and totally complied with the iron law of Hollywood. All movies have to suck, and they have to be a complete pile of left-wing, political jibberish. Well done folks.
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.
It should be right up front if their cause belongs to everybody. Instead, the stage is set for a near-future society that, in order to help "save the Earth," shrinks people down to five inches. When certain characters bring this environmental message up, it's usually with shrugged sarcasm - as if to get that out of the way in order for the Matt Damon Romantic Comedy to begin...
Yet even the first act isn't funny, and unlike Payne's road movies ABOUT SCHMIDT, SIDEWAYS and THE DESCENDANTS, it's not one bit interesting either.
Imagine a plotless theme-only story about a kindhearted man living in partial wealth until becoming concerned with a lower class community, and then deciding whether to join a European hippie cult to live underground in order to preserve the human race for the Climate Change apocalypse that's not only around the corner, it's heading right for us (just like Hollywood predicted Nuclear War was eminent, especially during the 1980's... until exactly 1992).
Without the title ingredient that's supposed to make this an ironic and quirky, what-if semi-satire, DOWNSIZING would be a bleeding heart without a body. Yet there's still no pulse or purpose here at all. With an annoying love-interest (a Vietnamese actress who will be nominated for an Oscar), a dull leading man, and a buried social message (more obvious than even TOMORROWLAND), let's hope the otherwise brilliant director Alexander Payne got all the Left Wing sermonizing out of his system, and create more indies about people to care about instead of what feels like an overlong first chapter of a Global Warning disaster film. As far as preachy goes, this is tops... And they say religious people deal in narrow-minded Absolutes in a corny and contrived fashion.
There's a brief set up scene TO HAMMER HOME HE'S A SAP where he rushes a date into meeting her kid the woman of course says it's too soon. Within five minutes he meets the woman who will cartoonishly use him the rest of the movie.
However, there is a plot twist! She treats him like dirt, orders him around endlessly, and verbally abuses him constantly...yet she's somehow a wonderful saintly women???
Then there's a scene where she falls asleep and he kisses her without consent? I'm like ..are you trying to destroy your career Matt Damon? Ohh sure she wakes up and says it's OK. Who wrote this scene, Harvey Weinstein? WTF!
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.
The film was advertised as a situational comedy with adult humour and 'attempts' to stay true to this slightly in the 1st act (albeit poorly, with hints of the overarching message being hinted at). Then the film narrative is hijacked as if the communist manifesto was cut and pasted into the screenplay for the remainder of the film. The true nature of the film as a propaganda piece was revealed by the clear need to falsely advertise the content and the obvious lack of effort put into maintaining a general plot.
Featuring caricatures: -Racial stereotypes -White males being either weak and walked over, or just deplorable (unless a 'climatologist' or environmental activist) -Bad consumerism and capitalism -Anyone not white being oppressed and/or virtuous (why does an artificially built 'perfect world' have a shanty town built specifically for all the non-white people who only speak Spanish by the way?) -Enlightened hippie-communes -Money hungry white women whop show no remorse or empathy -Bossy and sassy Asian women (but its funny! She's being mean to him haha!) -Corrupt and sociopathic Slavs -Drugs being fun and liberating -Saintly social-democrat Scandinavians -Someone speaking broken English being the major comedy relief (how adorable!) -...and lots of dicks! Unnecessary dicks!
Clear political propaganda. The producers merely dressed up the Church of Climate Change to look like a cinema, locked the doors once everyone had paid to come in, the beat the audience over the head with their sermon for over 2 hours.
Avoid this degenerate propaganda piece.