Downsizing

Downsizing is one of those films that will routinely be described as high concept. That high concept being that when it comes to overpopulation and dwindling resources size really does matter. So, when Norwegian scientists discover a process known as cellular reduction, a method that can shrink humans down to a fraction of their current size, many begin volunteering, thus helping the survival of the human race by making much more of the planet’s food and energy supplies.

There are other advantages too beside being environmentally very, very friendly. Anyone undergoing the process will instantly become financially far better off, $152,000 translating to around $12 million. Well, just think of the hundreds of times you’d be able to get drunk on a bottle of Buckfast if you were only five inches tall.

The operation, I should also explain, is irreversible.

Okay, a giant-sized suspension of disbelief is be required here. I’d imagine my local foxes would have me for a late night snack if I decided to go for a night out. And what if some vore fans got the idea of using me as their plaything?

Downsizing_-_Matt_Damon_&_Kristen_Wiig

Among the volunteers considering this brave (and very tiny) new world are Audrey and Paul Safranek (Kristen Wiig & Matt Damon), an affable but aimless American couple. Paul is an occupational therapist and all round good guy while Audrey prefers to focus on the financial upside.

They agree to go through with the operation, leaving their Omaha home, family and friends to live in a miniaturized community in New Mexico called Leisureland, whose motto is ‘It’s like winning the lottery everyday’.

Apparently most big acts include a date there on their tours, crime is almost non-existent and the place is pristine with all kinds of activities constantly available to residents.

So, does this Lilliputian lifestyle lead to a vibrant utopia where problems of old disappear?

Well, as the old phrase goes: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Relationships can still be difficult and noisy neighbours still enjoy cranking up their music (although I assumed that Paul’s mansion was all his, someone lives above him). More worryingly, a ghetto whose occupants are cooped up like chickens has sprung up near to the estate where Paul lives – although I have no real idea why this has been allowed to happen, why so many people agreed to go small and live there and why Paul has been completely unaware of all this.

In this dystopian environment he helps Ngoc Lan Tran, a dissident Vietnamese environmental activist, involuntarily resized by her government, who has ended up in America as a refugee and now works as a cleaner for Paul’s neighbour Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz), a past his prime Serbian playboy and shady entrepreneur.

This will lead to an oddyssey to the original scaled down community in Norway, the end of the world looming and a gigantic decision for Paul to make. These developments, though, fail to prove as intriguing as might be imagined.

Downsizing - Norwegian still

This kind of fantastical movie is a real departure for director Alexander Payne (Sideways and Nebraska), more the kind of thing you might associate with a Spike Jonze or Michel Gondry, who I’m guessing would likely have handled the project more imaginatively.

A combination of science fiction, social satire and love story, Downsizing is ambitious, unpredictable and often funny – like the sight gag involving Little Ronni, the first baby born to a reduced size couple and something of a celebrity.

It’s also overlong and, considering the buzz emanating around it, slightly disappointing.

Matt Damon does what he does, oozing likeability, and he really needs to start stretching himself more as an actor. Here he is impressed by just about everything, easily bossed around and much less interesting than those around him. A not very incredible shrunken man.

As ever Christoph Waltz is superb and I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more of Hong Chau on the big screen in the near future. Kristen Wiig, who I normally like a lot, is largely wasted in her role, her character as bland as Waltz’s is magnetic apart from one particular scene involving an interesting twist.

Udo Kier from Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein, Suspiria and The Story of O makes an appearance too as Mirkovic’s buddy Joris Konrad. If, like me, you haven’t seen him in a while he now looks like George Galloway with Terence Stamp’s eyes.


6/10