Saturday, August 25, 2018

Downsizing **1/2 (2017)

Downsizing takes a contrived premise that begins as an ominous allegory and then tries to be a feel good movie. Starring Matt Damon as eternally naive every man Paul Safranak who along with his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to shrink themselves in order to help the environment. For a Norwegian chemist has invented a serum that will shrink people in the hope it will save the earth (less waste will be produced). Eager for a change and the sense they are contributing towards a better world, Paul and Audrey decide to take the plunge into shrinking life. It goes without saying things don't go as planned. 

Coming off of two first rate character driven family dramas, Nebraska (2013) and The Descendants (2011), the film's director Alexander Payne, who takes a turn into science fiction in Downsizing, never quite manages to hit the right emotional and comedic notes, it's neither dark enough nor funny enough. Once we arrive in the small world, which is advertised as a utopia, it becomes apparent the dark side of humanity will reliably emerge. The first 45 minutes show great promise and feature some amusing cameos, setting a satiric tone that unfortunately dissipates at the halfway point. 

The muddled second half attempts to address economic and environmental dilemmas. Suddenly Downsizing becomes a quest movie including mischievous Dusan, an opportunistic German played by Christoph Waltz. The entourage includes Hong Chau as a Vietnamese activist and Udo Kier as a sea captain.

An ambitious misfire, Downsizing begins with a darkly comic Sci-Fi concept and then attempts to be a metaphor of the immigration experience, and the last act is a half-baked apocalyptic fable. Not a terrible movie by any means, Downsizing builds great expectations, but never lives up them.

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