DOWNSIZING marks filmmaker Alexander Payne’s departure from real life and real life drama as witnessed in films like NEBRASKA, THE DESCENDANTS and ELECTION. DOWNSIZING is Payne at his most playful, a sci-fi adult fairy tale of sorts, but one in which real life drama still exists. The film stars Matt Damon who like the role in his last film George Clooney/Coen Brothers’ SURBUBICON is about a man who strives for a better life but things end getting more f***ed up. What a man will do to correct the situation is what SUBIRBICON and DOWNSIZING are about. It is interesting to see how two different filmmakers deal with a similar premise.
DOWNSIZING, a film combining several genres offers the solution to the world’s problem of overpopulation. If people can be reduced in size to a thousandth of their original, many of the world problems could be solved. People will only eat, use and dispose much, much less product. When science finally achieved the success of downsizing, many colonies were begun. So, Matt Damon and wife opt to be reduced and live in their new reduced size colony for monetary benefit. Things never go as expected.
The film centres on Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) who is married to Audrey (Kristen Wiig) and who has spent most of his life working hard but still raying int he same old house. He figures that downsizing will allow him and his wife to afford the luxuries they would otherwise never achieve. But unknown to Paul, the problems he faces do not shrink like their bodies. After his is shrunk, Paul finds to his horror that Audrey has chickened out the procedure. Paul is left divorced in miniature Leisureland.
Paul finds truth though the Vietnamese cleaning lady Ngoc (Hong Chau) after partying at his neighbour, Dusan’s (Christoph Waltz). He slowly but surely redeems his life in a story unfolded in Payne and Jim Taylor’s script that is both dramatic and hilarious. There is a very funny segment where Paul gets high at Dusan’s glitzy party. He walks around with a ridiculous wide smile on his face, remarking at one point: “I am going to take off my shoes.”
There are many good examples why this script should win the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. This might be Payne’s second after winning Best Adapted Screenplay for THE DESCENDANTS. One are the words Ngoc replies to Paul after giving him a farewell gift of a Bible in Vietnamese:”Words don’t matter. Just remember me!” Or the dialogue when Paul asks her “Who am I?” She replies, pronouncing his name correctly the first time Paul has heard it pronounced correctly. “You are Paul Safrenek!” Or the classification of fucks into 8 categories, with Ngoc asking Paul: “What kind of fuck did you give me?”
DOWNSIZING’s script is brilliant with lots of attention to details. The film does not go into thriller territory but attempts more ambitious aims. Payne’s social satire is the most ambitious of all his films but it largely works thanks to the script. Damon’s performance is fantastic (even the glimmer fem his eyes) with help from a host of impressive stars (Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Laura Dern, Jason Sudeikis and Neil Patrick Harris). The prize performance comes from Hong Chau, as observable in the scene where she convinces with happy tears, Paul and company the reason she has to visit Norway.
Shot in Toronto and around the fiords of Norway.