Image: Matt Damon & Kristen Wigg witness ‘Downsizing’ © Property of Paramount Pictures [Source: IMDB]
When Paul Safranek (Played by Matt Damon) takes the leap to undergo ‘Downsizing‘ his world changes (go figure) and thus begins his journey to find his purpose going forward…now that he is 5 inches tall.
Director: Alexander Payne. Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wigg 
From standouts such as 2013’s Nebraska and the often overlooked Election (1999), Alexander Payne has proven himself to be a serious and insightful director. In Downsizing, he very nearly gets to that place again but falls short rather disappointingly. While this is certainly another original script from Payne, a term hard to use with big Hollywood releases in recent years – so this should have been a breath of fresh air.
Instead, Payne does little to explore or use the concept to insightful and meaningful means, the millions of directions that this film could have explored are neglected while any insight or world building Payne does is exhausted quickly in the first act. Resulting in a slow and unfocused film, the second and third act have a feel good/identity finding journey for Paul Safranek but it’s unengaging, at this point the laughs are not enough to keep this story interesting.
While it does not save the dull narrative, the laughs are there and when they work it works well, this can be a good time if that is all you were looking for and to an extent the film produces some insightful satire on the current world climate using the downsizing as a metaphor for numerous issues such as discrimination, climate change and more serious topics. However, these are brushed aside to focus more on the characters which is not necessarily a bad thing if the characters are engaging and reflecting the insightful themes the film would want to explore.
Sadly Downsizing does not do this, instead, the film gets preachy with its moral idealistic views and characters that just come across as want-to-be saints who provide nothing but irritation. Matt Damon playing our main character seems to coast by with his performance, it is not a bad performance, it just does little to add substance to the character. He does manage to create and facilitate alluring chemistry with breakout actress Hong Chau’s character (Ngoc Lan Tran), their emotional and bonding moments are among the most pleasing, sadly the accent choice is insufferable.
It’s a sickening caricature of Asian broken English and while it may have been the actress’s choice to have the accent I still think it comes off as insincere. There are a lot of almost cameo roles from big comedic talents such as Jason Sudeikis but they come across as vacant and wasted talent. The real fun performance comes from Christoph Waltz who seems to be enjoying a more laid back role immensely, and we feel it.
Downsizing can be a decent time if you’re not looking for much, it does its best to use its original and thought-provoking concept to its fullest, by presenting satirical issues at face value but exhausts any meaningful purpose to this as well as it’s concept quickly. The performances are engaging for the most part but the characters are shells with no substance beyond a single motive, there’s not a lot of fun to be had here or inspired ideas but it’s a film with a lot of potential and originality which is hard to come by with studio releases.