When scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall as a
solution to over-population, Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristen
Wiig) decide to abandon their stressed lives in order to get small and move
to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing
Sideways director Alexander Payne returns with an ambitious sci-fi satire
that tackles the possible solution for a dying world.
In Norway a group of scientists discover the ability to shrink people down
to several inches, believing that this will result in less overcrowding and
a smaller amount of waste, thereby helping with the environment. Cut to 15
years later and small 'small' communities are being built across the globe,
with many people going through the procedure known as downsizing. Two such
people are Paul and Audrey Safranek, who decide to move to the seemingly
idyllic community of Leisureland. Though things don't quite turn out for
Paul as he expected.
The opening third of Downsizing is probably its best as Payne and regular
co-writer Jim Taylor set about building this world with a beautiful and
often hilarious attention to detail from the central characters decision to
take the plunge to the practical details involved in the procedure itself.
If the rest of the film isn't quite as impressive, it's hard to fault its
ambition as there are still many incidental pleasures and details to
maintain interest throughout.
Matt Damon is fine enough as Paul, but he's playing a fairly
straightforward ordinary guy. The supporting cast are more colourful.
Kristen Wiig and Jason Sudeikis are very good as Audrey and an old high
school friend who convinces Paul of the benefits of downsizing. Christoph
Waltz is fine as a hard-partying neighbour with Udo Kier also good as his
friend. While Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern make a memorable but very
brief appearance as 'downsized' sales people highlighting the palatial
living accessible to even those on a modest budget.
Best of all though is relative unknown Hong Chau as Vietnamese dissident
Ngoc, shrunk by her government for protesting against it (a negative use of
the procedure the film could have explored further) and who escaped to
America in an empty TV box. She's gives the film its emotional edge as Paul
attempts to help her after she introduces him to the poorer side of
There are shades of The Truman Show in its depiction of a seemingly perfect
community but Downsizing never feels as iconic, not quite making the most
of its promising high concept.
It's still a worthy enough watch however thanks to its often very funny
attention to detail and excellent cast.