Downsizing could have been a masterpiece. It doesn’t hit that mark, but the ride is still an interesting addition to Alexander Payne’s filmography. The concepts introduced at the start of the film are very intriguing – scientists discover how to shrink humans until they’re five inches tall. This process is called downsizing, and it becomes somewhat popular (3% of the population has undergone downsizing) as money is worth much more given how little of everything one needs to live.
Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wiig) are a married couple in Omaha dealing with financial burdens. After some research and visiting some of the communities around the country, they decide they’re going to downsize and live in Leisureland, one of the most popular communities for small people. Audrey bails at the last second after Paul has already gone through the process. It’s irreversible, so Paul is left abandoned in this new community.Paul lives a relatively mundane existence until he meets his upstairs neighbor Dusan (Christoph Waltz). Dusan lives life to the fullest and tries to assist Paul in enjoying life again. Paul then meets one of Dusan’s housekeepers, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), who was a Vietnamese activist that was jailed and downsized against her will. He attempts to help her with her prosthetic leg, and this is where the film really takes off.
The idea of downsizing itself is very interesting; it helps the environment as much less waste is emitted, less is needed in general, people are “richer” and so on. More is introduced later in the film that I won’t spoil, but the concepts are compelling and original, and therefore it’s always fun to see where the plot goes next. The humor throughout the film helps too, as both Waltz and Chau are great in their roles. The ending wasn’t nearly as satisfying as I’d hoped, but it didn’t ruin the experience. It just felt like a bit of a squandered opportunity at something truly great.
Downsizing will go down as one of the most interesting films of 2017. Its ambitious plot and captivating concept don’t quite add up to as satisfying a final product as one would hope, but it’s worth seeing for its originality.