I will watch the movies that people say aren't that great. How do you feel about them?
Downsizing, released in 2017, begins with a scientist experimenting with mice. His aim, and that of the rest of the team, is to drastically reduce the planet's waste. What could go wrong with wanting to literally reduce the size of mankind and effectively save the planet? To prove his point, his test subjects have been living quite acrimoniously in a tiny society for four years and their total by-products of living this way amount to half a garbage bag of rubbish.
The first half of this film from Alexander Payne is fun and to the point. As the new downsized communities begin to emerge within society, more and more people struggling to get ahead are swayed by the proverbial carrot of living a better life. To join one of the many shrunken neighborhoods, most middle-tier income earners are able to access a life worth more than their wildest dreams could ever afford. Matt Damon plays Paul and fed up with his lot in life, convinces his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) to do away with everything they own, say goodbye to their friends and family and take the hairless plunge into tiny-town.
The moralistic tone creeps in quite quickly while the newest couple set to change their lives is having a farewell party in a bar. A man in the background, half full of beer, asks the moral conundrum about whether, as a small person, they should have equal rights to vote. The tonal shift is jarring and pulls you out of the dramedy style that was so enjoyable from the start. It's clear the film wants you to look at all the ideals of classism instead of a fun and novel approach to conserving the Earth.
Downsizing is not a character-driven poke at becoming accustomed to being a small fish in a big pond. Although there are glimpses of this as the movie moves forward, they slowly creep into a banal and tedious exercise in how a small world is just as politically incorrect as a large one.
As Paul teams up with Ngoc, a Vietnamese activist, the film never goes back to its original concept. Rather, the dynamic between the two unlikely friends reminded me of a Seinfeld episode. One in particular where George and Seinfeld plan an episode for a sitcom. In the episode, they discuss a mistake and a court decreeing that someone becomes someone else's butler to pay off the mistake they made. Similarly, Paul did a good deed and attended a house call in the slums of an outer pocket of Leisureland. While doing this good deed, he breaks her prosthetic leg and she decrees he help her as a house cleaner.
Between this odd change of narrative and Ngoc's comical and forced overextension of an accent, the film begins to drain. Her accent is so out of place, it infects the story like oil in the world's oceans. The role that Hong Chau plays as Ngoc is semi-famous and could have easily been more effective with an American accent that she would naturally use.
What's Your Purpose?
It's easy to write off the emerging subtext as Paul's way of departing from his no purpose life. However, the original idea is way more effective than where the story tries to land. What should be thought-provoking leans way too far towards a bland attempt at reminding us there are less fortunate people in the world. I'm all for thinking about these concepts, they are not even remotely touched on properly here.
If anything, the special effects are a glowing recommendation of how to make an adult-centric movie out of concepts used in dozens of popcorn type flicks. There are tiny details included in the cinematography that should be applauded, like using paperclips as joining materials and tiny furniture. On the negative side of this aspect, the sound design wasn't completely thought through in terms of realism and voices for the small are just as loud as voices for those who remain at normal size.
Overall the film is a little hard to get through.
I give Downsizing 2 there should have been more giant food out of 5.
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