Downsizing is a movie with an A+ premise, and for about the first 45 minutes, I was convinced that Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor were going to spin out this idea in increasingly inventive directions, because they set up the world of their story so well, with such great comic imagination in those early scenes. I was reminded of the buzz I felt at the beginning of Eternal Sunshine, laughing at the details of this reality (the oversize Saltine cracker, the way the nurses scoop up the newly downsized people with spatulas) while also finding a pleasing strain of melancholy beneath it (when full-size Damon and Wiig take off their wedding rings, knowing they'll never wear them again, you can feel the weight of the life-changing decision they're about to make). And the movie has a great first act plot turn that made me fascinated to see where the story was headed, and how it would wrestle with all of the emotional and social issues it had set up so far.
But I think the movie's second half is a bit of a let down. I generally feel like one should critique the movie the filmmakers made, as opposed to your own idea of the movie they should have made, but even keeping that in mind, I think it's fair to express disappointment at the way the movie basically forgets its own premise about half way through. It would seem to me that the purpose of telling a story like this would be to explore what life is like for downsized people in a world where the vast majority have NOT downsized. And while there are compelling ideas raised intermittently that tie into this idea (an early conversation about whether or not little people should have full voting rights, the fact that people can be downsized against their will), the second half of the movie doesn't seem that different from one that could have taken place in the full-size world. (Honestly, I'm flabbergasted that at no point does the physical danger of being a little person, at greater risk from the elements, animals, or larger human beings, play a significant part in the narrative).
This flaw is only exacerbated by the fact that the movie's characters just aren't very compelling. Damon's protagonist, especially, is essentially a lost sad-sack, and I can't say I found this character engaging enough to hang a whole movie on. Every moment Christoph Waltz appears on screen is completely insufferable -- is there a more consistently godawful actor with multiple Oscars? And Hong Chau's character -- a comic one-legged Vietnamese woman speaking in pidgin English -- is the kind of broad creation that is understandably making some critics uncomfortable. And her relationship with Damon doesn't remotely feel like anything grounded in reality. (That said, I think the actress commits to the part completely, and shows a good bit of range here -- there's humanity beneath the more shticky elements of the performance, and she manages to bring the character some dignity in a manner that even works against the script's tendency to treat her as a punchline.)
The movie is not without its ambitious ideas -- white privilege, health care, economic inequality, global warming, and the danger of cults pop up as serious strains beneath the movie's comedic surface. But for me, I kept feeling like they were tied to a story that just wasn't going in a direction I found that interesting, leading me to find the movie more like a first draft of a great idea than something that had been explored to its fullest potential.
Last edited by The Original BJ
on Mon Dec 11, 2017 6:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.