Alexander Payne has probably had one of the more interesting director careers out of anyone. Or at least anyone who isn’t an A-list always nominated amazing director.
I first saw one of his films, Citizen Ruth, when I was about 8 years old or so. It was NOT made for an 10 year old to watch, especially not on his own with no context, but I did it. Eventually I also saw Election, which I loved, and Sideways, and The Descendants, and Nebraska. At any of these points I never watched them knowing it was the director of these previous films I liked, because they are all so different and out there.
But for Downsizing, this is the first time I have gone in knowing the director, knowing his history and ready for something just bizarre.
And the trailers and plot surely delivered on that front.
The world is falling apart, due to pollution, global warming, and too many goddamn babies. And scientists have been trying to find cures that the public would believe and trust and they may have finally done it! You see, Dr. Jorgen Asbjørnsen (Rolf Lassgård), the mad Norweigian that he is, has successfully shrunk some rats in a way with no side effects and no premature deaths. So he did it on himself, his wife, and dozens of volunteers.
Yadda yadda yadda, many years later, there are many communities around the world of little folk, people are doing it not to save the planet, but to live like kings. Because their money in the real average sized world is worth a lot more when you are tiny, and you can live in giant mansions, never working again! It is the life for some, and a good choice.
Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey Safranek (Kristen Wiig) have been living very uneventful lives up to that point, never really going anywhere, gaining anything, or just really existing beyond a blip on the radar. Going small can make them happy. So why not, why not change their lives, try it out and take hold of their destiny.
And of course, of course, they will find out that being small isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. Record scratch and everything. Also starring Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Ingjerd Egeberg, Udo Kier, Jason Sudeikis, and James Van Der Beek.
Flower Power becomes an actual usable form of energy!
The Downsizing trailer made me really excited for this film. A nice shrinking film from a different point of view, starring everyone’s favorite Damon!
And the film that actually exists is very different from the trailer. It is a little bit about global warming, but really it is just a film to talk about class imbalances in society. Not a bad topic for a film, and this type of story can be a good way to tell that story. Downsizing just told its story terribly.
Our main character is just a passive bitch who just really sucks. He doesn’t move much, he is boring, and it never really pays off. There are some exciting people around him, but they are side characters and don’t get the screen time. Chau gets a ton of screen time, but she seems like some perfect character that isn’t exciting for different reasons. And honestly, I cannot tell if it is offensive, or inspiring, or what.
The ending is a let down, although there is at least one twist I only sort of saw coming, so that was nice.
Downsizing is a little film with grand big ambitions. But the story just drags along and goes places that aren’t as interesting as they must have seemed on paper. And let’s just say, 2016/2017 were bad for Damon. Basically everything since The Martian, except one cameo role. Suburbicon, The Great Wall, and Jason Bourne have all failed to deliver, and maybe his career is just on the decline now.