A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.
The world’s problems could be solved by downsizing, not just smaller people but their carbon footprint, which is the premise for Matt Damon’s new movie. Director Alex Payne followed the standard plot pattern: the world’s in trouble, a crazy scientist stumbles across a cure, and the cure does not go as planned for the main character. By that point, most movies lose their momentum and I assumed “Downsizing” would too, and yet it maintained speed despite a few speed bumps along the route. Overall, this utopia-esque film plays out like a predictable hallmark movie; you know the end but watch and enjoy anyways.
Paul Safranack (Matt Damon), an occupational therapist working at Omaha Steaks, in Omaha, spends his life caring for his sick mother when the first man is shrunk to a fraction of the normal human size. Five years later, Paul is living with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig) instead of his mom, and financial troubles irritate their childless lives until they meet with some college alumni who have made the life-altering decision to shrink down, with several benefits. A tour of one of the designer tiny communities seduces the couple into believing shrinking would fix all of their woes. Life in small communities means mansion-sized tiny homes and a life of luxury. Paul and Audrey join the revolution sweeping across the world and downsize. Until Audrey backs out and leaves her husband small and broke. Without the comparable income, Paul has to get a job instead of living the life of luxury.
A year later, Paul has lost his normal-sized life, his wife, and his dollhouse sized mansion. To fill the voids in his life, he tries dating and gets a job answering phones before he becomes friends with the party animal European neighbors living one floor up. Dusan and Joris (Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier) live life the way life was meant to be lived in Leisureland; party all night, sleep all day and make bookoo bucks on the black market. Paul’s boring life amuses them, as does his lack of desire to enjoy life with his typical American lifestyle of wake up, work, spend a quiet night at home before repeating the process. After a long night of partying, Paul meets a Vietnamese maid, Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), at Dusan’s extravagant apartment. Noticing her limp from a tragic life, Paul befriends Ngoc where he learns about sacrifice and living past his own existence. The new oddball group soon travel to Norway to visit the original downsized colony and the small-sized scientist who created the tiny revolution. Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen (Rolf Lassgård) is not quite what Paul expects though. Jorgen despairs as his cure for the world is too late to save humankind and Paul finds himself forced to choose between facing the end of the world with his new friends who gave him a desire to truly live or join Jorgen’s community underground to survive the annihilation of all organic life.
Despite the cookie-cutter plot, with its own unique twist, I thoroughly enjoyed watching what life would be like a fraction of the normal human size. A few issues rankled my nerves, such as Paul never visiting the friend that invited him to live in the tiny community, and the dating scene needed improvements as well. Overall, the movie failed to transition well from one idea to the next and a few characters were underdeveloped, neither of which harmed the lighthearted film. The magic of the movie was, like most movies, observing the characters grow, and in this case, the magic was with the blunt character Ngoc. Matt Damon’s personality lacked depth even after meeting the altruistic Asian girl who entered the country illegally through a TV box. Between her no-nonsense view of life and her desire to help others before herself, she could change anyone’s outlook on life, even boring Paul who barely had a personality. Their onscreen chemistry helped to improve Damon’s beige performance.
Imagine all the possibilities of living tiny. This is where “Downsizing” excelled. The visuals of the micro-miniature world as compared to the average sized world was entertaining. The two worlds mingled so well and yet quite ineffectively, not a plot error but an accurate display of how a society would handle birthing pains from societal changes. Prepare yourselves for little (pun intended) liberal propaganda; appropriate in the world structured but still over the top. I would love to have seen more of the world and to understand why the tinies had to live under a sort of umbrella beyond the necessity to keep birds from viewing little people as food. The end was worth the wait, just to see Matt Damon come back to life, or at least not look like a miniature zombie.
In theaters Friday, December 22nd