FRIDAY NIGHT MOVIE REVIEW: Last night, I saw “Downsizing,” which stars Matt Damon (The Martian, Jason Bourne), Christoph Waltz (Spectre, Django Unchained), Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Treme [TV series]), Kristen Wiig (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty , Bridesmaids), Rolf Laasgård (A Man Called Ove, After the Wedding), Ingjerd Egeberg (Mammon [TV series], Cool Kids Don’t Cry), Udo Kier (Melancholia, Blade), and Jason Sudeikis (Colossal, Horrible Bosses). It was directed by Alexander Payne (Nebraska, The Descendants), who also co-wrote it with Jim Taylor (Election, Sideways). To save the planet from destroying itself, a solution is discovered through shrinking people in a process called “downsizing.” Paul Safranek (Damon), a man feeling that he is called to do something more with his life, is attracted to this way of life, but is smacked with terrible luck the moment he shrinks.
I really couldn’t tell you what I just saw because…well…there’s not much to say. “Downsizing,” a film directed by Oscar-winner Alexander Payne about a man shrinking down to minuscule size to escape his problems, has more issues of its own to deal with outside of the main character himself. What are they? The big thing to take from this is how almost nothing happens. Sure, one can make the case that there is a huge, ongoing theme that Payne tries to envelope this story in, possibly have it be what absorbs the movie’s entire reason of existence. However, I couldn’t tell you what it is. Maybe it’s about self-discovery? Possibly how one’s life may seem small but they truly mean a lot to others? I don’t know, I don’t really want to bull crap an excuse to save this director (there’s no beef with him, I just don’t want to speak for the guy). For two hours and fifteen minutes, I watched as this poor, pathetic man named Paul Safranek go through his new life as a small person after his wife decides not to go through with the transformation as well. Once Paul realizes he has to grasp his current situation, many story arcs unfold, ranging from rich apartment neighbors to a small cult centered around preserving life. There’s quite a bit shoved into this plot, but none of it really adds up to anything. I didn’t care for Paul, nor any of the characters around him. Sure, his life sucks and it was rough to see him have to deal with the crap that was handed to him, but I never felt that I got to really know the guy. He kind of just wandered listlessly through this picture trying to find himself, and in the process came many drawn out moments that did nothing besides throw dialogue in for dialogue-sake. I walked away from this feeling empty, as if there was something I was missing; maybe it’s that overarching theme I was talking about earlier. I just don’t see what Payne was going for. The story breaks itself up into almost five sections, each dealing with a different set of characters that surround Paul. If you were to watch the first twenty minutes of this and then the last twenty, you’d think that you’d be watching an entirely different movie (aside from Matt Damon sticking around). I thought that a huge focus would be placed on Paul trying to move on from the abandonment of his wife. Her not choosing to go with him was insane, and all of it was brushed under the rug in a time jump to show how Paul has progressed. Speaking of which, there were a lot of time jumps; so many that I couldn’t really dig into these characters. At the beginning he is shown taking care of his mom who has an ailing disease. It’s a sad thing to see, but the story jumps ten years into the future after just one scene with her. Was she unnecessary? What purpose did she serve besides Paul saying that he’s lived in his childhood home for so long? It’s moments like these that leave almost no room for character development, detaching me from the story and causing me not to care. The performances were solid to say the least. I enjoyed watching these actors, especially Hong Chau who played an entertaining role as Ngoc Lan Tran. The look of this feature was also nice and presented a fascinating atmosphere to take in as a viewer. Admittedly, I was curious to see where this story was going throughout the course of its runtime. However, as the movie progressed, my hope in a long-term goal lowered. When you create a film that just lingers, floating across its runtime, you get tired and upset. I think “Downsizing” presented itself with an interesting concept and even laid down a good enough foundation in the beginning to make a solid flick. Unfortunately, it drifted far off course to the point of no return. Not only do I not understand the point of the feature, but I also lost a good night to watch a better film. FINAL SCORE: 50%= Burnt Popcorn
Here is the trailer: