As someone who peaked at 5 foot even, I’ve always loved the adage, “Great things come in small packages.” I was looking forward to seeing Downsizing, in which people elect to purposely be reduced to about 5 inches tall. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a dumpy occupational therapist from the Midwest, and Kristen Wiig plays his wife Audrey. The couple, tired of never being able to attain the fruits of labor enjoyed by the wealthy, decide it’s time to downsize. Rather than pare down their clutter, however, they instead make the radical choice to be shrunken, following the “less is more” mindset.
The idea behind being downsized at first appears to be altruistic, helping the world’s overpopulation problem since smaller people require fewer resources and produce less waste than their normal size counterparts. However, as the Safraneks research what their new lives could be like if they moved to a small people community, it becomes apparent that most people who’ve already downsized have done it because of the money they save. Suddenly the dream home the Safraneks could never afford is attainable, and working paycheck to paycheck to barely make ends meet promises to be but a memory. What could go wrong?
The film, which satirizes what people are willing to do to have more, in theory sounds interesting, right? Yeah, I thought so too. Instead of being entertained though, I felt outright disappointed. The trailer, in my opinion, was misleading, and even though Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis are in it, I barely cracked a smile, let alone laughed.
The movie is slow and painful. My husband Mike, who attended the film with me, leaned over at one point and whispered in my ear, “How much do you get paid per movie review? Whatever it is, I’ll double it if we can leave now.” Mike described the film as “preachy” and said that Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne character should have kicked his Paul Safranek character’s you know what. When I got up to use the restroom for a second, Mike threatened that I better not leave him there, and, truth be told, I did consider just hanging out in the lobby for the remainder of the film.
One of my big beefs with Downsizing, other than the dreadfully slow plot, was that there was too much obvious product placement: Omaha Steaks, New Balance, Absolut, and more. I can’t stand it when it’s obvious that certain elements are added to a movie strictly to be a commercial. Tacky and trite.
Another complaint I had was that one of the characters, a Vietnamese dissident/refugee named Ngoc Lan Tran, played by Thai actress Hong Chau, had an insulting and cursory mastery of the English language. Every time she spoke, she sounded like she was channeling the character Data from The Goonies, and I cringed, imagining how Asian immigrants would feel about the way she was representing them. Her character, the smallest among the small, ironically had the biggest heart, but it felt awkward listening to her. Was the director, Alexander Payne, thinking her broken English would be humorous? I couldn’t tell, but if that was his goal, he failed.
I know the movie was supposed to make me think about my own carbon footprint, and make me realize that getting everything I want isn’t always worth the sacrifices associated with it, but, honestly, I don’t think Mike nor I walked away from the movie feeling inspired to be better people. The movie, which highlights that’s there no such thing as the perfect utopia, had awkward nudity too, and in light of all the celebrities who’ve recently been “exposed” for showing off their junk to unwilling audiences, I could have done without seeing so many shots of male no no squares.
As someone who tries to look on the bright side of things, I will compliment Payne’s choice of casting the always-brilliant Christoph Waltz in the film. It was entertaining seeing him as Paul’s neighbor Dusan Mirkovic, and, unlike most roles Waltz stars in, he didn’t terrify me this time. And, as 2017 draws to a close, I’m now confident that no other film I see between now and the new year could possibly be as awful as Downsizing.
Movie times: click here
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sci-Fi
Director: Alexander Payne
Actors: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, and Kristen Wiig
Running Time: 2 hours 15 minutes
Rating: Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use.