Last night, November 11th, Downsizing was screening at Regal Dole Cannery Theater as a part of the 37th Hawaii International Film Festival. Because Downsizing is directed by Alexander Payne, who previously has directed films as The Descendants, Sideways and Nebraska, the expectations was high.
The film revolves around the environmental problems caused by the increasing population on the plant and how to handle them; by Downsizing. Downsizing is a medical procedure, where it is possible to shrink humans and thereby lower the humans impact on the environment.
The film follows the couple Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wiig), who struggles to make ends meet and decides to get small and move to Leisure Land in the search for a better life. While Paul is undergoing his transformation into small, Audrey bails out and leaves for the airport. Paul is left alone at Leisure Land with a noisy neighbor, which ends up leading to him meeting the bossy Vietnamese women Ngoc. Paul helps Ngoc with her legs and ends up going to Norway with her, the noisy neighbor and his friend. It’s all very confusing from here.
The idea about downsizing has the potential to become an incredible story, but unfortunately, I personally don’t think the film met the expectations.
The first half of the film was fascinating and really well told; the entire idea about downsizing and the actual process of becoming 5” tall was really well developed and told with a confidence, so it appears very realistic.
The second part of the film seemed rather misplaced. It seems like the main character want to get out of his situation helping Ngoc and lies about going to Norway, suddenly Ngoc wants to go to Norway too and they all ends up going. The purpose of the trip, or how it even came up is very unclear. All the way through the film, there is used a lot of humor, which works really well for the most of it. Though, towards the end of the film this humor seems very forces and gets a bit awkward and weird, and it seems like especially Ngoc’s role is overdone and taken too far.
Furthermore, the film is missing a clear ending. Well yes, we got the happy ending for our main character, but there’s still a lot of loose ends, who should have been tied. Along with the poor writing, there were some significant mistakes in between scenes, where details in cuts should have been more precise. This made the film and editing appear a bit sloppy. Throughout the film it was very questionable what the point of it all even was.
It seems like Alexander Payne wanted to create a film to raise awareness about the environment as well as the increasing population in the world. I think this overshadows the actual story of the film; within the first few minutes the point about the environment has been proven, but this is the film’s focus until the very end. It’s a shame, because the entire thought process behind the downsizing concept is really fascinating.
Despite the criticism, Downsizing managed to make the statement, that we should be aware of the environmental situation – and that it’s the little things that count. I would still recommend everyone to go see it – or maybe just the first half – because I really find the idea fascinating and fun, and it is film with the heart in the right place.