Downsizing movie review: This Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig starrer is high in concept, low on emotions

Mihir Fadnavis

Dec 22, 2017 09:11:25 IST


Whether it is Election, About Schmidt, Sideways or The Descendants, Alexander Payne has always made movies that are seemingly high concept but actually explore very basic real world human issues.

His latest film Downsizing is his highest concept project to date – it’s about the human race becoming too big for its own good, and the necessity to shrink down to gain a perspective of where we all went wrong. It sure sounds like a meditative, cerebral film on surface but is executed as a casual comedy. The results are mixed – the film intrigues sporadically but doesn’t ultimately reach any significant depth of its own philosophy and wastes a potentially more nuanced take on the issues by reducing it to a hollow mid life crisis satire.

Downsizing movie review: This Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig starrer is high in concept, low on emotions

Matt Damon, Kristen Wig in Downsizing.

So here we have Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a stereotypical married couple incredibly bored with their jobs and life. They exist in a world where a company has developed the cure for overpopulation – shrinking humans down to pint size so their carbon footprint is reduced. People who have been voluntarily shrunk also get to enjoy luxurious lifestyles because the cost of living is also reduced to pint size. Naturally our hero gets sucked into the programme and is enchanted by the ostensibly perfect utopia it offers. It doesn’t take long, however, for us to realize that no utopia is perfect and even a factory manufactured downsized world would have the same issues that our ‘normal sized’ real world has.

The problem with the film is that it doesn’t offer any great solution despite talking about the hundreds of problems in our world. We’re presented this ultimate scientific invention that would sort out the whole planet but it doesn’t really work – so it’s not entirely clear what Payne wants us to feel. Should we be depressed by the fact that there is no cure? Or do we continue to struggle in the rat race until the inevitable end of time when the sun grows big enough to swallow the Earth? The resolution to such issues that our hero finds in the end is gratingly unsatisfactory, and his journey towards that moment is a haphazard mess of an eco drama, screwball comedy and misguided parody.

Maybe it’s got to do with how we see Damon after his ludicrous statements regarding the sexual harassment scandals, but he seems very uncomfortable in the film – miscast and confused as he rambles from one set piece to another. His performance is the acting equivalent of a trashy self help book that expects you to be swayed by its hollow representation. More attention has seemingly been paid to building the world around him simply for the visual pizzazz, than how his character should epitomize the eyes of the audience.

Unlike Payne’s previous films, Downsizing limits its scope of connecting the characters and the film’s soul to the audience. It is possible that the hollow, desensitised, emotionless nature of the film was intended by Payne to emphasise the existential crisis we are in collectively as a human race, but it is also possible that this is a genuine misfire and a hugely missed opportunity from one of the best filmmakers out there.

Updated Date: Dec 22, 2017 10:07:49 IST

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