Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours
In the last decade, I’ve come to appreciate Alexander Payne’s films. From The Descendants (2011) to Nebraska (2013), it was clear he was improving as a director. I had high hopes for his latest work, Downsizing (2017) since the premise seemed interesting and ripe for social satire like his previous films. For a movie about becoming small, Downsizing certainly had big ambitions. Unfortunately, it means that this film was kind of all over the place. Sure, there was a somewhat logical progression of events, but even the main character was flabbergasted at the coincidence of it all.
While I would fault the movie for Hong Chau’s clipped English, as it almost seemed culturally insensitive at first, eventually the character grows on the viewer. This leads to a very touching ending. Instead, I will fault the science behind this science fiction. I was half-expecting a lot of sight gags on how ordinary objects are much bigger with shrunken humans (a la The Borrowers), which Downsizing delivered on a couple of times. However, if inorganic material cannot be shrunk, then how are there whole communities with small-scale items (like lightbulbs, prosthetics, etc.) that would need to be manufactured in the smaller scale?
I’m still trying to get my head around how cerebral this movie was. With no clear focus (and a few sequences that were a smidge too long), I had trouble determining if the satire was on the contrast between rich and poor (paralleled with big vs. small), or if it was a statement about human interaction with the environment. I get that the term “downsizing” is applied in many aspects of this film, from the actual shrinking process to shedding all the meaningless materialism of our existences, but even the open-ended ending left me wanting just a little bit more closure on everything.
A semi-comedy that is probably too smart for its own good, I give Downsizing 3.0 stars out of 5.