From Sideways, to Nebraska, to The Descendants, and even Paris, je t'aime, I've pretty much loved everything that I've seen from director Alexander Payne, making Downsizing one of my most anticipated films of 2017. Having heard so little about the film aside from its concept, I went into the screening fairly cold. Sadly, the film doesn't have a whole lot more to offer than its brilliant concept and exceptional first act. I must admit that I left feeling disappointed, thinking they could've made this a better movie in many ways. When a film has so much promise and doesn't exactly deliver on much of it, I feel as though many people would be let down by that. Here is why I believe everyone should see Downsizing, despite it being slightly too mediocre as a final product.
In this dramedy, which also in part a social satire of its own genre, Downsizing follows a couple who believes their lives would be better if they were to shrink themselves and be transferred to a new world called Leisureland. This place exists to conserve the Earth and save the environment, by these shrunken people needed much fewer resources. With multiple meanings to the title, this is a concept that sounds incredible on paper but doesn't exactly translate into that great of a movie. Throughout the first act, I found myself immersed in this world and couldn't wait to be taken on its journey, but I soon found myself losing interest when political and religious elements began to take over. This is a movie that could've done so much more with its premise.
Without giving anything away, there are many characters that come in and out of this film in a heartbeat, pretty much leaving them in the dust, when in reality they were actually interesting and added a layer to the overall story. It felt as though Alexander Payne wanted to focus so much on the idea of the Downsizing concept, that he sidelined quite a few characters along the way. His films have always been about characters, and while Paul (Matt Damon) and Ngoc (Hong Chau) share some great chemistry throughout this film, it's hard not to wish that all of the characters throughout the first act were present throughout the entire film. This was a very curious issue I had while watching and definitely upon reflection.
As soon as you're brought into this other world that has been built for those who shrunk themselves over the years, you will find yourself kind of transfixed at how interesting the visuals are and how well the comedic aspects come into play, but what you don't expect is for the film to take a dramatic turn and really have you thinking hard about the world we live in and whether or not certain lines of dialogue are true about society in general. This is an eye-opening film in that regard and the third act is incredibly ambitious, but I just don't think it really sticks the landing that it strives to achieve.
In the end, this is one of the most original ideas I can recall in recent memory, but an idea doesn't make a film great. It's the film itself that needs to win you over as a whole, and Downsizing just didn't do that for me. On many accounts, this is a very impressive movie from a technical standpoint and it takes risks that I didn't expect it to, but the risks it takes will only work for a few audiences members that can relate to it.
This is a movie that promises a lot and tries to deliver on all of those promises, while also shoving in side plots that make this film too emotionally complex to really be invested in the satirical aspects by the end. I wish this film went through a few more rewrites, because there is a satirical masterpiece of a movie in here somewhere, but it's just not the product that you'll be seeing in theatres soon. Downsizing is worth your time in terms of originality, but I wouldn't get your hopes up on it being a favorite of yours.