I love interesting science fiction “what if” stories and Downsizing fits the bill. Imagine if one weird scientific breakthrough happened, how would that affect our world? Usually these movies revolve around something more dramatic like time travel or teleportation or androids, but this one is a tad more subdued.
Imagine a world where it’s possible to shrink down to about 5 inches and live in small communities where your money is worth 1000x as much. Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig star as a married couple who want to live in luxury but are broke and hopeless, so they go in for this “downsizing” process. However when Damon’s character wakes up, he’s alone and his wife has ditched him. The real story starts here, as he tries to find out more about himself. He befriends his wild neighbor (Christoph Waltz) and meets a Vietnamese woman who was shrunk by her government for her insolence (Hong Chau).
As a concept, this is a cool idea and the movie does a great job of showing you all sorts of facets about this world. Plot-wise, it’s really minimal, but we get to see a lot of examples of how downsizing would affect the world and the people in it.
Matt Damon does a great job here too, as the man looking for a purpose. The cast around him does a great job, though Hong Chau might be a divisive choice. She has heart and provides a lot of the charm of the movie but she delivers a very strong Vietnamese accent that had the audience laughing, though I don’t think it was supposed to be comedy. I liked her though, I just wonder if other audiences will appreciate it.
I also thought Christoph Waltz stole most scenes that he was in, he was a riot here. It was a nice turn since he’s usually the stoic villain.
What doesn’t work?
The biggest complaint I have is how the movie ends. It’s surprising how many movies can fall apart in the final moments, in the very way that they cut to credits. Here, a movie that was very literal in how it told its story suddenly decides to become vague with an ending that left the entire theater speechless and confused. I could’ve seen many different endings coming and any of those predictable endings would have been better than what we got.
This movie’s plotline also zigzagged all over the place. It was surprising, since the entire second half of the film wasn’t featured in the trailers, but it felt like plotlines were just left behind or ignored. We meet characters (like a former friend played by Jason Sudeikis) and they immediately disappear. It’s not a satisfying journey, even though the world is interesting.
Like I said, if you find Hong Chau to be a comedic element, she might become grating to you. Again, I liked her, but I worry it’s going to be a divisive opinion.
Downsizing is an interesting movie but not necessarily a good movie. This is like a short story that features a scientific “what if” but it’s stretched into a two hour movie that doesn’t quite pay off, especially with an ending that doesn’t suit the movie it belongs to. Damon is great as the lead, and I liked Hong Chau, but half the audience mistook her heartfelt moments for comedy. Worth renting, wait for the small screen (pun intended).