Downsizing Blu-ray Review

Downsizing

It all seems so beautifully simple.

‘Let’s sell the house, leave the city and buy something bigger in that place where all the racists hang around and live mortgage free. The kids are young enough to settle again in a new school and we would not have to work so hard just to keep our heads afloat. Think of all the extra time we would get with the kids, and each other…’

‘Darling… are you even listening to me…. do you really need to have a drink with every meal, we can’t afford it and it’s not good for you’

‘Well then perhaps you can enlighten me as to what I should have in my muesli, you know dairy doesn’t agree with me Nigella?’

The problems facing Paul and Audrey Safranek at the outset of Alexander Payne’s hi-concept latest feature, Downsizing, are similar in nature to that of a gorgeous pair of urban elites with itchy feet, although maybe not as nuanced as the petty dispute over an alcoholic breakfast cereal kick-start to the day.

Matt Damon stars as Paul, an occupational therapist resplendent in beige. His wife Audrey, played by Kristen Wiig, suggests they downsize themselves in a far more dramatic way then buying a semi-detached outside of London.

Set in the American Midwest, our heroes explore an escape from their bland existence by taking advantage of recent advancements in technology by joining a micro-community of people who have been scientifically shrunk. By selling up their Omaha daily grind The Safranek’s would in theory be able to live a life of luxury, freed from the burden of destroying the environment with their consumption as regular sized humans.

Upon watching a brilliantly cringe-worthy sales pitch featuring a miniature Laura Dern pretending to be caught in the bath, Paul and Audrey are convinced to undergo the shrinking process and move to Leisureland, one of the most sought-after communities for the discerning small individual.

All of the couple’s business affairs are resolved, their home is sold and after tearful goodbyes are made to family and friends, The Safranek’s are whisked off to Leisureland to undergo the transformation to diminutive.

Once his entire body has been shaved and his teeth remodelled. Teeny Paul awakes in his new world only to discover that life is not quite what he had expected. To expand any more would be to risk upsetting the spoiler authorities.

A world away from his earlier films, Payne’s Downsizing is an ambitious, high concept, science fiction, environmentally conscious, love story mish-mash of a movie that never really strikes any of its intended target genres.

Whilst the premise is excellent and the opening scenes are engaging and occasionally very funny as the film develops it becomes overwrought and complex.

Once the narrative moves onto the citizens of Leisureland it’s almost as if part one of the story ends and its sequel begins. Maybe it would have been wiser to make it Downsizing as a mini-series rather than a feature because as a movie it feels overlong and yet underdeveloped.

The characters he meets are not really fully formed. Paul’s upstairs neighbour Dušan, a middle aged Eurotrash playboy played by Christoph Waltz, is supposed to be a roguish charmer but just comes across as vaguely irritating.

Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese political activist shrunk by her government as a punishment for anti-establishment activity, is wonderful and steals most of her scenes, even if much of the humour comes from exploiting the cultural divide.

Matt Damon as Paul is so downbeat that he almost blends into the scenery; it’s not surprising that the role was initially written with Paul Giamatti in mind.

Damon manages to shed his Jason Bourne skin and inhabits the downtrodden Paul very effectively; much to Mrs F’s disappointment, who I’m convinced, wants to be his unwitting hostage as he goes on a hi-speed killing spree through a historic European location. Even though she is fully aware this will end in her own tragic and heart-breaking demise.

Which obviously will be very distressing for all, but at least it would save me from judgemental looks as I reach for my morning gin.

Frank Gardiner

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