Matt Daman stars as Paul, a man who, in an attempt to get the life he always wanted, undergoes the downsizing process to become five inches tall.
Advertised as the way to save the planet (by reducing waste, energy usage, etc), as well as having the perks of becoming instantly richer than one ever could have hoped, average Joe Paul and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wig) leap at the opportunity to live the life of luxury by downsizing.
The film starts strongly by sowing the seeds for an exploration of some of the pertinent issues of our time. This is only semi-successful however. The reason for this is that as the film progresses it becomes increasingly clear that the film doesn’t know what it wants to be. Is it a comedy? A drama? A satire? It’s an adequately made film with decent characters; Matt Damon is as solid as he always is; Christoph Waltz adds his customary flair to the film and the standout is Hong Chau, who is the moral compass; but it’s a film that meanders aimlessly, searching for purpose.
The film teases a satire on “The American Dream” – “Downsize to live the life you’ve always wanted – you know, as long as you’re white and middle class”. However, it never really builds on this nor does it tackle topics like class or ethnicity which are touched upon but never explored fully. It raises issues yet ignores them for the sake of comedy or to focus on something else. It’s all a bit of a muddle.
The film begins with a comment on how the planet is being destroyed by overpopulation, energy consumption and consumerism and it cleverly carries this idea forward into the film as Paul is downsized. Residents of LeisureLand, one of the many small person residential areas around the globe, live lavishly and all seems well until we see that the issues that plague our societies are still prominent. There are some clever moments in there which begin to make Downsizing feel like a clever satire, however they are few and far between.
The film treads the line between comedy and drama unsuccessfully. In addition to this, writer/ director Alexander Payne seems to want to tackle a number of issues without ever adequately making a comment on anything. It feels like three films in one. Part rom-com, part sci-fi drama, part satire, Downsizing is a jack of all trades, master of none.