Comedy Downsizing

'Downsizing' Film Review: A sci-fi dramedy that thinks small, but yields big results

December 22, 2017Ferdosa Abdi

Downsizing is a sci-fi dramedy that imagines a world where overpopulation, climate change and economic upheaval has pushed humanity to look to science to save them. It is a film that explores bold and big ideas, all wrapped up in very small packaging.

The movie follows Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), a man down on his luck and who decides to "downsize" to better his and his wife Audrey's (Kristen Wiig) living situation. More specifically, downsizing is a medical procedure that shrinks humans to 5 inches. This procedure is the solution to overpopulation, however, people like Paul also see it as a means of benefiting their own personal situations and maximizing their wealth. But after Paul undergoes the procedure, he learns that there is much about humanity he still does not understand, and that shrinking down won't solve any of his problems, nor the problems of the world.

Enter Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a Vietnamese activist who puts everything into perspective for Paul. Ngoc was shrunk against her will, lives in the ghetto of Leisureland, a community built specially for the downsized, and is living a life no different to when she was full-sized. Her character stands as a reminder that no matter how much science is injected to solve the world's problems, the problems will always persist. For it is humans that threaten humanity.

The cast includes Jason Sudeikis and Christoph Waltz, and the performances are good all around; however, it is Chau who steals the show. She puts a ton of heart into the film and is so compelling to watch that one might wonder why the film wasn't about her life, before and after going small. On that note, it's worth mentioning that her character's accent has become something of a point of contention, but it's a foolish thing to discuss. Chau is of Vietnamese descent and, as such, she embodies people she knows. Her accent comes from a genuine place and is neither annoying or unnecessary.

On the contrary, it provides a global feel to the movie, and, in that regard, it is not the only non-American accent in the movie. There are a number of Europeans in the film and they all have their accents intact, so to single Chau out and to disregard the others shows that some people are just eager to be make up a controversy for no reason or are under the impression that non-European accents should be held to a different standard. Either way, Chau is brilliant, and Ngoc is a well-crafted character that embodies society's greatest unsung heroes.

Getting back to the story, director Alexander Payne and his co-writer, Jim Taylor, do something rather atypical with it. Instead of focusing on the end-of-the-world situation or on the global ramifications of the ideas presented, they focuses solely on a handful of human characters. It is a refreshing take for a science fiction story, as there is no spectacle involved in the filmmaking process. In fact, everything is rather ordinary, mundane even, and the procedure itself is rooted in everyday medical practices. We are only reminded of the bigger world once in a while, when the downsized engage with the normal-sized people or when normal-sized items and products are used to emphasize that the characters are indeed 5 inches tall.

Ultimately, Downsizing is a science fiction movie firmly rooted in the reality of our society. It is an exploration of humanity's greatest vices, for even when the world is in danger, people will often prioritize their own well-being and wealth. No matter what situation humanity finds itself in, the marginalized and oppressed will always exist, and racial divides and economic disparity do not magically disappear after you have been shrunk to diminutive proportions.

Downsizing releases December 22nd, 2017 from Paramount Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use. Its runtime is 2 hrs. 15 min.

You May Also Like