Downsizing (2017)

Director: Alexander Payne
Writer: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Cast: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Kristen Wiig, Rolf Lassgård, Ingjerd Egeberg, Udo Kier, Søren Pilmark, Jason Sudeikis, Maribeth Monroe, Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern, Margo Martindale
Seen on: 1.2.2018

The world has latched onto a new concept: downsizing. People are literally shrunk down to five inches. Given that they need much less resources that way, their dollar stretches much further, buying them a life of luxury. Paul (Matt Damon) is intrigued by the idea and when his friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis) tells him all about his newly shrunken life and how great it is, Paul and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to take the leap themselves.

Payne isn’t my kind of director, and Downsizing is unfortunately no exception, despite the fun premise. The execution is racist, sexist and gets lost inside its own metaphor. I was hoping for more.

I really thought that the idea behind Downsizing was intriguing and fun: solving the problematic over-consumption in hyper-capitalism literally by living smaller. Not changing your lifestyle or standards, no, in fact increasing your proportionate consumption, but making yourself smaller to deal with limited resources. But the problem is that this is not actually a feasible solution and it doesn’t really open up any avenues worth exploring for any real life change that would solve or alleviate any of the systemic issues that the film teases and plays with.

So what I hoped the film would be, what good science fiction usually is – a commentary on today’s society and trying out new ways to think about current problems -; it’s pretty obvious to everyone that this film doesn’t deliver it. It’s also obvious to the film which is why it quickly moves away from any meaningful social commentary and becomes the usual yadda yadda about this middle-aged, rich white guy in a crisis who really needs to find himself and redefine his life. Yawn.

That the film first makes sure that Audrey is shown to be an asshole, so Paul can have an ex to resent and then gives Paul an Asian woman – Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau) – to fall in love with who is not only the only character of color in an embarassingly white film, but also every stereotype of an Asian woman conjured up by a white man’s brain who really needs his white dude protagonist to be inspired and have sex. How different the film could have been if it had chosen Ngoc Lan as the protagonist of the film, really digging into the issues that are only hinted at with her life story.

In any case, Downsizing is a very long-winded exercise of saying nothing at all while thinking that it is sharing really big insight into life and existence itself. I really can do without that.

Summarizing: empty.

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