Telluride 2017 “Downsizing” Review
Downsizing is Alexander Payne’s latest film starring Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, and Hong Chau. The story begins with a fascinating concept that we could potentially save the environment and essentially the human race by miniaturizing humans. As Paul (Matt Damon) learns more about the idea, the more interested he becomes. His life with his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) is the average American’s, but Paul and Audrey want more. In order to afford the life they both want, they conclude that downsizing is the only way they can get it.
As they begin the process, they are separated, and after the procedure, Paul learns that Audrey didn’t go through with it and had left him and alone and only five inches tall. Following his divorce, he must move into a smaller apartment, and that is where he meets his upstairs neighbor, Dusan (Christophe Waltz). Following an extravagant party, Paul wakes up on the floor after passing out in time to see a famous Vietnamese woman who was punished and downsized against her will. Meeting this woman starts him on a journey that takes him to unexpected places both physically and emotionally.
The first act of Downsizing is engaging because you are learning about the characters and the concepts, but it drags after that and feels like it never reaches its full potential. The problem is that Alexander Payne tries to comment on too many things without saying enough about anything. From global warming due to overpopulation and social class to wealth distribution, nothing is presented strongly enough to make the emotional impact that it needs.
The characters were fairly predictable stereotypes. While Matt Damon gave a great performance as Paul and Hong Chau was good in her own right, Christophe Waltz felt way over the top and almost like he was in a different film. His overly eccentric performance was too much for an otherwise reserved cast of characters. Payne also spends a little too much time focuses on the humor of the film, distracting again from the commentary. Picking up people with little spatulas and bringing in giant size crackers just seem to be below what I would expect from him as a director.
Downsizing had the potential to be a really impactful satirical film, but the overloading of topics and commentary leaves a bit more to be desired. The concepts are fascinating, and the commentary was headed in the right direction but didn’t leave enough of an impression to make Downsizing truly memorable.
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