Downsizing: Movie Review

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Set in the near future, Alexander Payne’s film attacks the world’s big issues in a small world. The planet is overcrowded and that is one of the biggest problem that the world is facing. New technology offers an exceptional solution to willing candidates-to shrink down and live a far more lucrative life in a miniature world.

The plot is kicked in via Dusan (Christoph Waltz), enlivened no end by Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau as a Vietnamese agitator). Director Payne morphs Downsizing in to a political commentary from a quirky comedy. For instance, the first lot of the downsized population is shown to produce only one normal-sized garbage bag waste in four years. Despite the downside of an irreversible procedure, the miniatures stand to gain monetarily where $152000 of their real world money is equivalent to $12.5 million inside Leisureland, one of the many downsized communities.

The allure of big dream-house mansion and $70 million diamond bracelet is perfect enough for a restart for Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig). While Audrey backs out last minute, shrunk from 1.8m to 12.9cms, Paul has to now navigate his new life in this new world. When he meets his neighbour, Dusan and his cleaning woman Ngoc, his perspective on life is transformed. Although Matt Damon’s earnest portrayal is very sympathetic to his character’s emotional wounds and confusion, it is the complex performance of Hong Chau as an amputee refugee who refuses to wallow about her crappy lot in life and lives in Leisureland’s version of a ghetto, that steals the show.

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If you are expecting a ‘Honey, I Shrunk the Kids’ you will be disappointed. Visually Downsizing is a delight, especially when we are made to live in the fancy Leisureland, the new abode of the downsized beings. Seeing Damon scooped up by a fish slice-like tool is an image to savour. There are some interesting strands to the concept too-like a naysayer complaints about downsizing effect on consumer spending, tax revenue and the global economy, or governments’ use of the technology against unwilling dissidents. However, these are never explored beyond a line or two.

The film has all characteristics of a Payne movie. The director, best known for his unconventional movies such as, Election, About Schmidt, Sideways and The Descendants., depicts pain in its various forms — emotional pain, physical pain (the character of Paul is an occupational therapist) and environmental pain. Although not everything about Downsizing is perfect, it proves Payne’s strengths as a visual storyteller and his commitment to social realities.

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Though environmentalism is the master idea underpinning the movie, it’s when Payne goes aiming for higher conceits and moving away from the personal, that the film starts to waver. The film makes an attempt to say something meaningful about human legacy and being part of something outsized. It looks at a much bigger problem when it comes to shrinking humans than any previous film on the subject. While it dithers in what it wants to eventually say, it is certainly a fun watch. The poignancy and ambition is established but the execution falters. Despite that, there’s enough in this smart, original work to really get you thinking about its ideas.

★★★

 

Added by Leonardo Law

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