“Downsizing” Bigger Than Its High Concept Premise


What sounds ludicrous about “Downsizing” is ludicrous.

But something bigger looms behind its high concept premise.

wdaIts set in a near future where a scientific advancement allows people to be shrunk in size and live in a miniature ecosystem that resembles the larger world at a smaller scale, in order to save the dying planet. It is also potentially lucrative: if you are a thousand-aire in the regular world, you are a millionaire in the smaller one.

But people are not equal there either.

Matt Damon’s doughy Everyman learns that this world also comes with a wall when he befriends a Vietnamese dissident turned one-legged cleaning woman, played by Golden Globe nominee Hong Chau.

And he finds the heart of the world within the smaller one with help from a neighbor as dubious as he is fabulous, played by Christoph Waltz. Chau gives a memorably oddball performance. And though some mind find her dialect offensive, her actions defy stereotype. She is only slightly less unintelligible than James Franco in “The Disaster Artist.”

Damon’s dopey regular guy stumbling through this world is the pin in the balloon that keeps “Downsizing” from feeling overblown. The result combines the whimsy and wandering sense of self discovery of writer director Alexander Payne’s other films – “Nebraska,” “About Schmidt,” “The Descendants”- with a fantastic premise that might give “serious” moviegoers second thoughts.

The effects used to portray differences in scale are adequate, and the  portrait of the shrinking process – using a giant microwave device – is comic in its simplicity. When he’s done Damon is lifted off his gurney using a spatula. In truth, the result is no more absurd and no less inspired than Albert Brooks “Defending Your Life,” whose comic complications are set in a heavenly afterlife.

At a time of year at the multiplex when bigger is better, “Downsizing” is different from anything out there.


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