Tuesday, January 2, 2018

[Review] Downsizing

What if we had the technology to shrink ourselves for the betterment of the world and for our own personal prosperity? This is the beyond bite-sized question that Alexander Payne's intriguing but uneven soci sci-fi film Downsizing attempts to explore.

Matt Damon plays the central suburbanite who becomes enthralled by the possibilities of "going small." After much deliberation, he and his wife (played by Kristen Wiig) decide to take the permanent plunge, but one big problem occurs -- his wife bails at the last minute! From there, the now hopeless schlub must adjust to his new lifestyle and discover his true purpose.

It's certainly no Honey, I Shrunk the Kids -- but the story's future-shock angle is remarkable in its own way. This is actually a fascinating, thought-provoking, and imaginative concept for a film (and in general). Think about the benefits of downsizing: You take up less space, so you're helping to reduce the worldly problems of pollution and overpopulation. And you're more cost-effective and need way fewer materials to sustain, so you'd also be wealthy in return! The film addresses these themes (albeit a bit awkwardly) as well as the political and class implications that might arise.

The story definitely takes some strange and unexpected turns as Damon's character befriends a haughty fellow played by Christoph Waltz, as well as a Vietnamese activist named Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) from the other side of the small town. It's Chau who injects a new shot of life into the film, as she's easily the funniest and most warmly humane character here.

The film's oblong tone is a difficult one to pin down, but that's part of its charm. At times it feels jocular and satirical, and other times it's serious and schmaltzy. It never pretends to have all the answers either, but it definitely scratches at the surface of some interesting hypotheticals. It also has an undeniable spunk of visual spectacle to it, along with some fun gimmickry. So, I guess you could say -- Downsizing has its pluses and minuses.

( 7/10 )

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