“Downsizing” Fails To Lift Off

Downsizing is an oddly amusing failure that devolves from something that’s intriguing and seemingly inspired into a film that could be a substitute for a sleeping pills.

Downsizing, Matt DamonThe usually reliable Alexander Payne brings audiences his first real misstep with 2017’s Downsizing, a smartly conceived but poorly executed satirical-fantasy that manages the miraculous feat of wasting a terrific idea. Payne, the director behind masterpieces Sideways and Nebraska, likes to make his audiences wait between movies, usually satisfying our thirst for more acerbic wit and biting character-driven black comedy but here he’s oddly out of touch with a premise that deserved better.

Matt Damon is Paul Safranek, an occupational therapist who, having learned of a new invention that allows people to shrink to five inches tall thus combating a future that is suffering overpopulation, signs up to be “downsized”. His wife, Kristen Wiig’s Audrey Safranek, agrees to join him at first but later pulls out, leaving him to reassess what he wants to do with his life. This is further complicated by his friendship with Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a broadly brushed, stereotypical Vietnamese woman who was downsized against her will.

It’s distinctly a film of two halves which is detrimental for at least a couple of reasons. One, the dull last hour makes you long for the comedic delights and sparkling conceit of the first half. Two, it reminds you what could have been. And given the film’s lengthy running time, when things begin to go downhill dramatically and comedically, watch-checking is to be expected as Payne’s micro-fantasy reveals a director who appears less assured with elements of science-fiction. Indeed, he appears to banish the fantastical which makes the film feel even more out of tune.

Downsizing, Matt Damon

In fact, Payne has overseen some terrific performances from actors who tend to need little encouragement to hit the high gears without overdoing it (see Paul Giamatti in Sideways, Jack Nicholson in About Schmidt or Bruce Dern in Nebraska) but Downsizing witnesses perennial scene-stealer Christoph Waltz turn in one-note ordinariness that feels oddly caricatured and out-of-character for a film under the direction of Payne.

Maybe if this was a first-time director or someone without Payne’s exemplary filmography, it would be easier to be less critical of its flaws. But it isn’t. And this is the guy who gave us The Descendants and Election too. As such Downsizing is an oddly amusing failure that devolves from something that’s intriguing and seemingly inspired into a film that could be a substitute for a sleeping pills.

downsizing, two stars, Top 10 Films

Written by Rory Fish

Downsizing, Matt DamonDirected by: Alexander Payne
Written by: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig, Udo Kier

Released: 2017 / Genre: Drama / Comedy
Country: USA / IMDB
More reviews: Latest | Archive

Downsizing was released on DVD, Blu-ray™, Download & Keep and to Rent on Digital May 28, 2018

About the Author
Rory Fish has loved movies since he can remember. If he was to put together an "all time" top 10 of absolute favourites it would have to include North By Northwest, 12 Angry Men and Sunset Boulevard.

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