Attempting to ease the problems brought about by the continuous growth of the world’s population, scientists invent Downsizing; a procedure that shrinks humans to about five inches. Once you’ve been downsized you live in your own little utopia in a community of small people where you can live in luxury for a minimal amount of money.
Enter Paul and Audrey Safranek, (Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) a married couple down on their luck and unable to secure the mortgage they so desperately crave to better their existence. They decide to downsize and Paul’s journey of self-discover begins as he attempts to make sense of the new world he finds himself in, and to uncover his purpose in life.
The message of the film is simple; as a society if we don’t change our wasteful ways we will bring about the destruction of our world. Downsizing explores this, the lengths people will go to escape their financial woes, the ever-increasing population problem and climate change. Whilst everything about this world in miniature seems idyllic, the film takes a more sinister turn halfway through as we visit shanty towns crammed full of people in desperate need of food and medicine mirroring the larger world above it. Ethnic minorities are herded like cattle into makeshift shacks off the beaten track and well away from the picturesque world of ‘Leisure Land’.
Director Alexander Payne’s vision is brilliantly executed with some inventive imagery; nurses using spatulas to pick up the newly downsized humans, people being delivered by FedEx and a one dollar bill mounted on a wall as a huge piece of art.
Damon is very good as an ordinary Joe; however, he could’ve used a sense of humour to make him more rounded and personable. Indeed, it takes some Class A drugs to make him fun in an amusing scene. Kristen Wiig doesn’t have a great deal to do as she plays it safe as the bored housewife. Star of the show is Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese refugee turned Florence Nightingale. She hobbles into Paul’s world as a stereotypical Asian, but quickly becomes the essence of the film with her terrific performance. Christoph Waltz also shines as a hedonistic party animal who’s quite happy to live in the now and let others worry about the future.
Downsizing is a witty, thoughtful satire that addresses some interesting issues and looks very pretty, but could have done with having 20 minutes knocked off the running time.