Downsizing review – little point | Downsizing

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Is it sci-fi? A satire about the lengths to which society will go to maintain its frenzy of consumption? Or a heartfelt plea on behalf of our plundered environment? With his latest film, Alexander Payne finds himself teetering uncomfortably atop a high-concept device and wrestling with tonal clashes.

Downsizing posits a future in which humans can choose to shrink themselves to approximately 5in in height. It’s sold as the ultimate in environmental altruism. But the main reason? “Smalls” get to live in luxury and privilege in well-appointed gated (and insect-netted) miniature communities.

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is dissatisfied. He dreamed of being a doctor but ended up as an occupational therapist. He still lives in the house in which he watched both his mother and his ambitions die. He is disproportionately riled by the fact that nobody seems to be able to pronounce his surname. He’s not a bad man, but, Payne suggests, he’s a small man, even before he shrinks. The decision to miniaturise himself doesn’t quite work out. But perhaps, the film argues as it creaks into its laboured third act, only by being small can he finally learn to be a bigger man.

People expecting Honey, I Shrunk the Kids japes or an Innerspace-style fantasy-adventure will be disappointed, as will those hoping for Payne to show his teeth along with his earnest side. Much of the comic potential is squandered after the enjoyable initial set-up. Small is only interesting, after all, when contrasted with big. Once Paul finds himself in “Leisureland”, his smallness is almost incidental. And for all its deft inventiveness, the film gets rather weighed down by its message.

Pint-sized fun comes from Christoph Waltz as Dusan, with his wolfish grin and an appetite for misbehaviour that belies his size, and Hong Chau as Ngoc, a forthright Vietnamese dissident and humanitarian worker. They go some way to balancing the thuddingly dull presence of Paul at the heart of the story.

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Source: The Guardian
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