Science enables people to shrink to a fraction of their normal size,
allowing for a more extravagant lifestyle for the middle class.
Directed by Alexander Payne
Written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor
Starring Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau,
Kristen Wiig, Rolf Lassgård, Udo Kier
Downsizing is a quaint little (heh-heh) film that suffers from a serious focus problem. It has this grand premise with so many different possibilities that it never bothers to pick one, opting instead to focus on at least three separate stories that never seem to mesh all that well. Despite great performances from Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, and Hong Chau, there's something about Downsizing that screams noncommittal. It's almost like the script wasn't finished and they didn't have a third act, so they winged it. It's enjoyable for the most part, but it lacks a story.
When science makes an historic breakthrough allowing people to shrink down to five inches tall, Paul (Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to go through with the procedure in order to improve their quality of life. It's only after Paul goes through with the irreversible operation that he finds out Audrey backed out at the last second and wants a divorce. Now stuck tiny and alone, Paul must make the most of his situation. This easily could've been the setup to a movie, but the story shifts to another concept which is Paul and his weird Serbian neighbor Dusan (Waltz). From there, Paul meets Ngoc Lan (Chau) and the entire movie becomes something else, to the point where you almost forget about the entire shrinking business. Things shift into dramatic territory for the remainder of the movie, with the concept of Armageddon tossed around and Paul having to make a choice between love and survival. Again, it's like several movies crammed together.
Downsizing isn't terrible, but it easily could've been better. Alexander Payne is a terrific storyteller, so it's a shame that this one wasn't more on par with the rest of his work. It sports a solid cast and a highly intriguing premise, both of which it wastes. There's never a moment where you feel like you're watching something as whimsical as the trailer made it out to be. Most of the times, you're watching Matt Damon have a mid-life crisis, only he's really, really small.