This review contains no spoilers
R – Restricted
Despite Downsizing seemingly offers an easy way to safe haven or instant utopia, with hindsight, the idea actually comes out as a result of slow yet fast progressing reality. It’s told that the world of near future is threatened by human ignorance towards global climate change. The melting iceberg and released toxic gases don’t happen overnight but appear to have reached an extreme point which needs to be taken seriously.
In anticipation, some Norwegian scientists invent the technology to shrink matters as if they’re doing miniatures; houses, cars, men, women, etc. At the beginning, this project sounds brilliant as well as agreeable since the objective is noble; to save nature, mankind, and civilization AKA escape the extinction when it’s finally inevitable. But when the plot goes off to demoralize the fighting spirit of lower socio-economics group, we realize that the idea has gone different way without compromising.
The idea of shrinking and making human feel as large as they were is big. But marrying this with the environmental and welfare issue is not considerate. Reducing mass and volume can really save a lot of energy. More people get downsized also means less problem on city planning and population control. But this only stays on track until it’s revealed that most of the participants join in order to to enjoy the luxury they can’t afford being normal. The plot goes off irrelevant when the idea of downsizing is abused for interest of those selfish and naive.
The latter is represented by Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) who’s excited about turning his some thousand dollars saving into millions. Apology is only accepted when his mission to make her wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), live financially happier, fails shortly after he’s completely downsized. During last minute, Audrey decides that she can’t go through the frightening procedures, leaves mini Paul heavily devastated. On the other hand, meet Dusan (Christoph Waltz) who enjoys the cost-cut of being small. Smaller Cohiba cigars, small Vodka bottles, cheaper price. Having saved a lot, Dusan becomes a growing Richie Rich, allowing him to be a frequent party goer in his own apartment, thus disturbing Paul living downstairs.
Downsizing is never about group of environmentalists trying to save the earth. The idea is larger than nature that makes it too large to handle. Alexander Payne (About Schmidt, The Descendants) probably started this idea being a humanist but then got overwhelmed when the urgency of extinction is not actually here yet. He probably wanted to build an immediate sanctuary but there’s no such disaster coming up shortly. People are urged to join the project while they actually have pretty much time to procrastinate.
Thankfully the game changer character played by Hong Chau (Inherent Vice, Big Little Lies) normalizes the imbalance as well as the fallacy that downsized people can only do leisure. Ngoc Lan Tran (Chau) shows that humanity needs to exist in Leisureland. Unlike others, Tran has no privilege to enjoy the facilities or own a luxury. She’s downsized by accident and exiled outside Leisureland on purpose. What she does for life is neither waste nor excess but brings an impact larger than her size, a great meaning this movie desperately needs.
Downsizing is missing an important point in term of getting the environmental and social issues attached midway. However, with the aid of Tran, it finally finds a way to fix the mess although things don’t always go both ways, like the world is inflated while the people are downsized. The climate change is a great excuse for the mishap but it also becomes an acceptable reason for the plot to reroute from the immature term of safe haven. Cos like Tran, not everyone is afraid to die. Not everyone is naive to leave reality and selfish to lavish. Some people are just afraid they haven’t done enough for others in this life.
Director: Alexander Payne
Cast: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Jason Sudeikis, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau
Duration: 135 mins