Hola Dannie aqui,
On Monday evening I went to a screening of Downsizing. I was extremely excited to see the latest film by director Alexander Payne who has impressed me over the years with his work on the films "Election," "Sideways," "Nebraska," "The Descendants," "Citizen Ruth" and the beautiful dark comedy "About Schmidt." He won Oscars for his writing on "Sideways" in 2004 and "The Descendants" from 2011. Being a massive fan of his cerebral comedies, I expected to be blown away by Payne's intellectual quick wit and headiness combined with a science fiction twist.
Overall I enjoyed the film. However, I do have some mixed feelings we will get into later in the review. I went into "Downsizing" thinking I was going to be touched emotionally as I have been with some of Payne's prior flicks, there was a definite disconnection I felt as the film played on.
The beginning of the film was excellent revolving mainly around the Norwegian scientists that develop the downsizing technology, and what this will mean environmentally, and financially for humanities future. The sound effect on the downsizing machine is fucking hilarious, just about everyone in the auditorium laughed each and every time it was used.
Then we meet Paul Safranek (played by actor Matt Damon) an average middle-class American Joe, right away you know this is a truly nice guy, as initially, we see him caring for his dying mother, and conversing with her about the new scientific breakthrough. (We later learn he gave up his dream of being a surgeon to care for his ailing Mother) Through a montage of time and information on downsizing becoming a more viable option economically and environmentally, years pass, we see Paul Safranek's routine and learn of his mothers passing and discover he is now married to Audrey Safranek (actress/comedian Kristen Wiig). Audrey and Paul live in his mother's meager middle-class home, very little has changed there. We see the couple struggling financially and after some mutual friends go "small" the Safranek's start taking downsizing seriously as an option to elevate their current standing.
If you have seen the trailer you already know that Audrey refuses to downsize after Paul already has gone through the terrifying, painful and dehumanizing irreversible process of downsizing. This was hilariously painful pure Alexander Payne goodness!
Poor, poor Paul Safranek, shrunk down to about five inches, abandoned by his wife and alone in a strange land. The land of the small has many upsides one is that economically $120,000 = $12 million. This is what Paul and his wife had, as they were supposed to live like a king and queen. Since she decided not to go small, a divorce is filed, and unfortunately, Mr. Safranek gets the short end of the stick and is left living in a tiny apartment as opposed to the mansion he and Audrey had initially picked out. Because the "small" community is out of state Safranek's permits as a rehab tech have expired, and he is currently working in a cubicle, doing mundane call center shit (a shrunken level of purgatory for sure), we see him trying to date; it is pretty darn bleak for the guy.
This film opens many doors in the Downsizing universe I found many of these doors very interesting. One is the black market in the "small" communities; this door is opened by Dusan Mirkovic (played by the always intriguing actor Christoph Waltz) and Konrad (cult favorite actor Udo Kier). Waltz and Kier are European smugglers and Paul Safranek's party-driven neighbors, soon side-splitting friendship blooms.
We also learn that the downsizing process has been utilized in some countries prison industries, and they are forcing criminals and political dissidents to be shrunk. We learn of a tragedy where some Vietnamese prison escapees died while trying to seek asylum in the United States smuggling themselves into the country inside a flat screen television box, only one person survived Ngoc Lan Tran (actress Hong Chau from "Treme" and "Inherent Vice").
Paul learns of Ngoc early via a news show and then discovers she is Mirkovic's maid. Hong Chau's over-the-top performance is laughable and at times, heartfelt, crude and highly disturbing during others. Her character was a political activist in Vietnam, she was forcefully imprisoned and shrunk, was a victim and sole survivor of the dreaded T.V. box that resulted in her needing amputation. Her character opens the door to many subjects, including the impoverished shrunken immigrants who she lives among. (Loved seeing Cantinflas being projected in the tiny barrio)
As I said before I enjoyed this film, however, I did not LOVE it and I really really wanted to. I thought it was fun, raised some good politcal, environmental and humanitarian questions/possibilities. It was an entertaining little Sci-Fi satire, but overall I felt the last twenty minutes were a bit lackluster and overtly spoonfed. Downsizing is a laugh, and I honestly thought it would be mainly a dark comedy, and I guess it sorta was, but by the end of the film it seemed to degrade into a middle-schooler herpes sore level of comedy.
Downsizing preaches that it is the small things in life that make the biggest impact, like (the not so common anymore) common decency. It is worth a watch I am sure many people will love it, it just lost me at the end.
Stay Strong, Live Good, Love Movies!
Dannie aka Pekosa Peligrosa
Also, the above picture which was featured in the trailer is nowhere in the film! Or maybe I blinked!