Downsizing

Studio: Paramount
Directed by Alexander Payne

Dec 20, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Overpopulation is rapidly driving our planet towards an extinction-level event. As a last ditch resort to save humanity, scientists in a Norwegian lab have come up with a drastic, yet promising solution: they’ll shrink humans down to a tiny portion of their normal size. If mankind averages five inches in height, civilization’s impact on the Earth will become dramatically smaller. People are skeptical at first, but who wouldn’t be?

The leading factor convincing everyday people to “get small,” of course, is money. In the tiny world, one dollar will buy a thousand’s worth of most products, simply because not nearly as much is needed. (The same amount of gold that goes into one regular, human-sized ring will produce hundreds of small-sized rings, and so forth.) And so, once the opportunity is presented for a regular, middle-income American to retire and live the life of extreme luxury on only their meager savings, people world-wide begin lining up to undergo the shrinking procedure. That’s where Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey Safranek (Kristen Wiig) enter our story. An average, middle class American couple tired of scraping to get by, the two sign up to downsize and embark on a new life in a tiny, southwestern utopia called Leisureland.

Downsizing, from director Alexander Payne, has a very old-fashioned feel to it. This sort of high-concept, slightly ludicrous-feeling science fiction was commonplace in the 1950s, but then petered out by the end of the 1970s. (Downsizing’s premise of decreasing humans to stave off overpopulation was actually used before in the 1980 Lily Tomlin comedy, The Incredible Shrinking Woman.) There’s a lot of spectacle to be found in the film, and there’s a joy in seeing the tiny world juxtaposed against our normal one, rendered humongous in comparison. While the idea of humanity shrinking down to doll-sized feels very cheesy in concept, when watching the film it's quite the contrary – and that’s a huge achievement for Payne and his team.

Where the movie really succeeds, though, is in the story that plays out once our hero, Paul (Damon), has already shrunk. Because the little world is built to the scale of its population, it’s easy to forget that everyone in it is so small compared to the larger world around them. Once we’ve entered the dome-covered Leisureland, we’re given very few reminders that 95% of humanity is still normal-sized – the downsized humans live in a figurative bubble, as well as a physical one. From this point on, the story is less about Paul being small, but about his adapting to life in a new world that’s remarkably similar to our own. 

Downsizing boasts a stellar supporting cast, with Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz, and Udo Kier leading an ensemble that also includes Jason Sudeikis, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, and Margo Martindale. A touching piece of high-concept science fiction with a twisted sense of humor, Downsizing is one of the year’s most enjoyable movies. 

Author rating: 8/10

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Average reader rating: 5/10



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house cleaners in lynnwood
December 22nd 2017
10:45am

This movie is definitely on the list of things to do for before the new years. After reading your review, I want to go watch it even more. Watching a movie these days is a luxury for me, especially with my house cleaning business and a new baby. But this looks like a movie that’s worth spending my time on. Thanks