Downsizing has huge problems

downposterDownsizing (2017)
R | 2h 15min | Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi | 22 December 2017 (USA)

Synopsis: Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in Omaha in order to get small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.

Review: The concept of DOWNSIZING is intriguing and probably looked really strong on paper. Even having a conversation about what might happen, “if”, could be exciting and stir up all manner of opinions. The key though is how it translates to the screen. Are the scenarios entertaining. Do the characters hold our attention. Is the message too preachy or so subtle we lose interest. Those are the questions that should have been asked. Sadly this film doesn’t know what it wants to be and audiences will have a hard time embracing the agenda.

Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) are like most suburban couples. They work hard, want to live a decent life, and at times find money is tight. They are living in a world where many have decided to downsize. It is a process in which scientists can shrink you down to less than half a foot tall. Tiny communities offer fancy lifestyles on a lot less money. You can live large in a very small area. Once Paul makes the decision his life changes in many different ways; few as he anticipated.

Most of us are old enough to remember comedies like Honey I Shrunk the Kids in which we laugh at the idea of how normal life would look if you were miniature in size. It is obvious here that writer/director Alexander Payne had no intention of making that sort of movie. And that is fine. In fact it is one of the better decisions. Though there are high brow comedy moments this is a serious satire that engages a lot of cultural and global issues.

Paul is a likable guy and Damon always makes a character more endearing (Suburbicon not included) so it is not hard to want him to find purpose and happiness. There are things that happen early on that I will not go into that make Paul end up single in this new, small world. As he mopes and grumps his way around his new community you start to get bored of his existence. Even the people he engages with, like the arrogant Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz), are not enough to help the story along. At times you almost want some sophomoric humor just for the heck of it.

One saving grace of this film is the character and performance of Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau). This character is well written and the sharp banter delivered in award worthy fashion by Chau. She becomes sort of a love interest of Paul and their relationship is far more fun to watch than the actual meat of the film.

DOWNSIZING is rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use. It is an adult film and even though the trailer makes it seem like a cute film for the whole family, it is not. The themes, conversations, and satire are intended for mature audience. Sadly most mature viewers will find it trite and boring. I give it 1.5 out of 5 teeny thumbs down. It actually made me miss Rick Moranis. Yikes.