By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn
One of the things I love most about film is their ability to start conversation. Not every film has to be disposable, colourful fun (even if I am a sucker for disposable, colourful fun). Some of the more interesting films to come out this year, from MOTHER! to GET OUT to IT COMES AT NIGHT and beyond, have all started conversations that not only make you think deeper and harder about what you just spent two hours watching, but it also makes you feel really smart in the process. DOWNSIZING, while not as fantastic as those other films, does just that.
The concept of shrinking down characters has been done before, perhaps most famously in beloved family film HONEY, I SHRUNK THE KIDS. However, with DOWNSIZING, we get something else added to the concept. This isn’t your typical ‘shrinking person’ movie. This is an Alexander Payne (THE DESCENDANTS, SIDEWAYS, NEBRASKA) social satire that opens the door for wider discussions. Payne takes us to the not-so-distant future, where shrinking down and starting a new miniature life is slowly becoming a big thing, helping you out financially while also reducing the world’s waste and saving the environment. It’s a win-win situation.
Our central protagonist is Paul (Matt Damon). He’s getting tired of his mundane existence, hoping to move houses and start fresh with his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig), but financially, they’re in a bit of a hole. That’s why the process of Downsizing (shrinking down) seems like the perfect fit. They realise that, if they follow through with the process, most of life’s problems will merely float away. So, they do it. They shrink down. And in this new four-inch-tall lifestyle, Paul begins to discover life’s true beauty, as well as the harm we’re doing to the globe. The first half is a story of getting small. The second half is the story of thinking big.
It’s a film rich with sociological ideas and global commentary, relevant to today’s culture more than anything. DOWNSIZING opens the doors for a number of different topics, ones that you may already be aware of, however they’re presented in new and innovate ways that give them a fresh perspective. The film tries to do something different and it works. Its use of shrinking down in size allows for a much larger understanding of the world and the way things work. Their world is much smaller than ours, but it retains all of life’s woes and worries.
Sadly, I think I liked what this film was trying to do more than actually liked this film. Part of my appreciation towards it lies within the fact that it did go out of its way to do something different and while not everything falls together perfectly, I’ll get more into that shortly, what does is inventive, exciting and often quite comedic. A lot of comedy is derived from this situation, some of it laugh out loud hilarious (seeing people accidentally get high will never not make me laugh and I can’t explain why) whereas some of it is really… not… great… Some of the foreign characters, for example, speak broken English for laughs and it’s a joke that’s been stale for over a decade.
The first and second halves of this movie take two distinctly different approaches to the story, both with their ups and downs. Half one is more along the lines of the advertisements. It’s witty, creative, real-world humour where giant objects are played for laughs and these actors create the best of a wacky situation. Matt Damon is fantastic, but nobody else in this massive supporting cast gets enough to do to really shine. Kristen Wiig in particular is extremely under-utilized and I have no idea why Jason Sudeikis is even in this film. His scenes, as unnecessary as most of them are, could easily have been replaced with the Christoph Waltz character.
When we do get to the second half, things become slightly more mature. The whole ‘small world’ concept is all but forgotten about, making it indistinguishable from your everyday drama set in the real world, save for one hilarious visual joke towards the finale. Overarching themes and messages hinted at during the first half carry over, but it’s a very different approach to the story, one that I did appreciate and enjoy, but one that felt a little too different to what had already come. It’s a strange transition that doesn’t mesh as well as it should. None of it was advertised (unless you watched the spoiler-filled second trailer, which I made sure not to), and understandably so. It’d look like a completely different film.
I left DOWNSIZING unsure as to whether I really liked this film or didn’t care for it. After careful consideration, it falls somewhere in the middle, but because of what it was attempting to do, it gets pushed over into a more positive light. It’s under baked, uneven and barely dips the surface of its themes, making this more of a conversation starter than an actual conversation, but I liked its ambitiousness enough for me to kind of like this movie. I think. Maybe. Probably. We’ll see…
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