Alexander Payne’s sci-fi satire explores a revolutionary method of shrinking people to minuscule size in order to combat overcrowding on Earth.
The procedure known as ‘downsizing’ also allows those on meagre incomes to live like royalty in their tiny towns.
A college reunion brings Paul and Audrey face-to-face with their old classmates who have been “smalled”. The five inch family live in a luxury community named Leisureland. Their dollars go so much further than they ever could in the regular world, allowing them to live like rich retirees while they are still young enough to enjoy it.
That’s the moment that changes everything. Paul and Audrey pack their bags, say their goodbyes and head off to be shrunk, ready to start their news lives, leaving their burdens behind.
The scientific process is as intriguing as the preparation for the procedure, shaved within an inch of their lives the couple are set to leave the “big world” forever.
A plot twist around the 50 minute mark deflates any energy the movie has built up by this point. The movie permanently shifts focus to the little world and in doing so, normalises it. The comic comparison of the two worlds is lost forever.
We stay in the miniaturisation world while Paul discovers that Leisureland isn’t what it claims to be, and that the same issues that plague the big world have seeped into this one.
Paul’s neighbour Dusan (Christoph Waltz) is capitalising on the greed culture that is rife in Leisureland. In partnership with his ‘big’ brother he imports luxury items like cigars and alcohol from the big world for a not to tiny profit.
Dusan lives a party boy lifestyle. His soirees are the talk of the town. It’s left to poor immigrants who lived in shanty towns to clean up his mess. That’s how Paul comes to meet Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a straight-talking Vietnamese immigrant.
The movie then shifts focus to the living conditions of these poor people, and then later the first community ever to be “smalled”.
Downsizing has been described as a mini masterpiece, but in reality, it’s a mini catastrophe.
The premise of the movie sounds cool. I mean who wouldn’t want to be a real-life borrower living the life of a billionaire for mere peanuts?
The plot is as confused as it is long. There’s a serious identity crisis going on here. What starts off as a black comedy sci-fi, soon turns into a drama and then all out gag-fest.
The South Park-esque comedy towards the end leaves you wondering what exactly this movie is about. Chau’s character has been highlighted as a racist stereotype and it’s hard to disagree.
Downsizing had the potential to be great, to explore a really cool concept, but instead it reverts to theme changes and cheap gags to get by. The end result is a rather underwhelming experience.
By Ruth Walker