There’s an endless supply of small puns I could make here so just choose your favourite and know this: Downsizing is a huge waste of time. Wait…
Downsizing (2017) is a science-fiction dramedy written and directed by Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Sideways). After scientists discover its possible to shrink humans down to five inches tall, middle-aged Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) make the decision to join the growing ‘small’ populations worldwide for the chance at a better life.
There’s a no more appropriate film to finish 2017 on than the most disappointing one of the year. I’m a sucker for interesting sci-fi premises, and from the first trailer this felt like a must-watch – not only does it do what great sci-fi should in allowing us to view our world in a different way, it boasted a great cast and an Oscar-winning director at its helm. But its clear Alexander Payne and I have very different interpretations of what makes this premise interesting, and its this disconnect that made Downsizing a disappointment of immense proportions.
The film starts off promising with a lengthy first act that establishes the impact shrinking technology has had on the wider world – from societal conflicts to how the economy is accommodating ever-growing ‘small’ communities, its a fascinating set-up that’s presented in an equally compelling way. However about an hour through, the film hits a sudden twist (that the trailer spoils just because) that flips the story from exploring this technology to essentially a dull mid-life crisis film about Paul trying to figure out ‘his place in the world’. Something that isn’t helped when your lead character is as boring as dishwater. From then on the movie begins to veer wildly into strange and bizarre tangents that don’t seem to gel at all with each, before ultimately ending on the dullest note I’ve seen this year.
Speaking of the lead, Matt Damon doesn’t exactly help at making an interesting protagonist. He plays Paul with as much energy and vigour as a child forced to sit through church, and its hard to root for a guy that just puts you to sleep watching him. The supporting cast does fare a little better, even if they frequently feel wasted. Kristen Wiig doesn’t get the chance to do much, other stars Chrisoph Waltz and Jason Sudeikis feel completely arbitrary and Hong Chau in a critical role in the film’s second and third acts is forced to play a character that is, shall we say, a little problematic. She does the best she can with what she’s given, but its hard to look beyond the character in this instance and she unfortunately ends up feeling just as underused as the rest.
A promising start simply makes the rest of Downsizing look like an even bigger disappointment. With a fascinating premise that is ultimately squandered by Payne’s direction, too many tangents and a screenplay that needed a much steadier hand behind it, this is a big disappointment for such a small movie.
General Audiences: Meh
Film Buffs: Not Recommended