Downsizing Is A Social Satire That Comes Up Short

Take our world, with our massive buildings, overpopulated cities and food shortages, and now imagine we have the ability to shrink everything down and solve a lot of the crowding problems we have today. That’s the premise of director Alexander Payne’s new film Downsizing, and while it is an interesting premise, the film itself is frustratingly short when it comes to being a film that keeps your interest.

Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play Paul and Audrey Safranek, your average middle-class couple that find themselves struggling to make ends meet on a weekly basis. Part of the problem of course is that the planet has become too overpopulated, but a Norwegian scientist comes up with a solution; downsizing. He proposes shrinking people to a height of five inches because they would take up less space, would require less food, and money would go much further. There is a catch though. The process is irreversible. Paul and Audrey decide to move forward with the procure after a discussion with a friend who has already downsized, but after awakening from it, Paul discovers his wife Audrey has backed out and he is all alone. Paul struggles to find his way in the new world until he meets his eccentric new neighbour Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) and his one-legged humanitarian house-cleaner Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau).

The film starts off extremely well, and it does a good job pulling you in, but that’s because the premise is so interesting. Shortly after Paul finishes the procedure though, you quickly find yourself losing interest. After all, other than the occasional reminder through sight gags and jokes that the people we are watching are supposed to be 5 inches tall, you discover that they aren’t much different than you. What that leaves us with then is watching a boring man stumble through his new life. Even the satire you are expecting has lost its edge by this point, and gets buried beneath preachy political and religious undertones. Hong Chau’s character is by far the most fascinating and fun to watch after she makes her first appearance, but she’s not enough to carry the movie. And the love story between her and Matt Damon’s character is so unrealistic that you find yourself not really caring about it. 

While Downsizing may draw you in with the premise, it’s lacking in an actual story worth watching, unless you want to be bored for over two hours. The film made it’s debut at the Venice Film Festival and Tiff 2017, and hit theatres everywhere on December 22nd. 

By: Roderick Thedorff