“Downsizing” a miniature failure

 By Aaron Reynolds

The Surveyor

2.5 out of 5 Stars

Rated: R

Are you exhausted from working the same nine to five? Ever feel like there is never any money left over after paying all the bills? Do you wish life had a “restart” button?

The new film “Downsizing” – starring Matt Damon – is all about fresh starts.

“Downsizing” is produced, written and directed by Alexander Payne, who already has a reputation for creating films with satirical depictions of contemporary society (“Sideways,” “Nebraska,”) and takes it to another level by offering one of the most dynamic examinations of modern-day culture and social issues. Whether he is effective in doing so is largely based on personal interpretation.

Paul (Damon) is having a difficult time just getting by. He, along with his wife (Kristen Wiig), still lives in the house he grew up in despite working a full-time job. Frustrated with his way of life, Paul becomes inspired to make a radical change by “downsizing,” a revolutionary new scientific/medical process that shrinks humans down to five to six inches and gives them a brand new start in a miniature world where your money has more value and food lasts much longer.

While downsizing is touted as a way to save the planet from overpopulation due to leaving a much smaller carbon footprint, many who have already undergone the procedure claim they can now “live like kings,” essentially transforming their previous, general run-of-the-mill lifestyles in the larger world to one that is far more profitable.

Despite “Downsizing” shortcomings, which are largely related to story structure, there is much to applaud here. For starters, these are the types of movies Hollywood needs to release more often. It is an extremely unique story with much bigger implications. “Downsizing” examines everything from income inequality to climate change, yet never gets too preachy or attempts to lecture a certain political belief down your throat.

Instead it admits humankind is gravely flawed, and there is obviously no clear-cut solution. As Paul discovers, even in a dream land where everyone is designed to thrive, the evil notions of humans take over as greed and selfishness become apparent, thus making the society nearly as divided as the one they left.

The problem is “Downsizing” is two hours and 15 minutes long, and at times drags, at times lacks an identity. It is billed as a comedy-drama yet isn’t notably funny or extraordinarily serious. It’s a science fiction piece of filmmaking yet doesn’t necessarily wow you with those dazzling visuals you would expect from this brand new world.

It would have likely been much more effective as a TV series where the story-telling wouldn’t have been crammed into such a tight narrative window, especially when trying to solve some of society’s biggest conundrums. Ultimately, “Downsizing” is one of the most admirable pieces of filmmaking of the past year, yet lacks the payoff that could have made it a masterpiece.


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