Downsizing is the latest film from acclaimed director Alexander Payne. He directed such films as The Descendants, Sideways, and more recently, Nebraska. The concept of Downsizing revolves around a medical procedure in which people can shrink themselves in order to have less of an impact on the environment, as well as live in communities free of crime and shortage. While the film sells itself as a satirical-comedy, I hardly found the comedy once this film revealed its true nature in the second and third acts. While Downsizing is definitely not the worst film I saw at HIFF this year, it was considerably the most disappointing, and I already had my expectations set at what I thought was a reasonable level, considering some of the reviews this film has received from certain outlets.
The film stars Matt Damon and Christopher Waltz, and although Kristen Wiig also receives top billing, she is only in the first twenty or so minutes of the film, and is completely wasted in even that short span of screen time. Matt Damon, of course, plays a convincing every man, but it just is not enough to save Downsizing from its horrific writing in the second and third acts, as well as its choppy editing, poor directing, and even worse satire.
When Matt Damon undergoes the “downsizing” procedure, the audience is soon introduced to two of the most horrendously offensive stereotypes put on screen by a mainstream director in quite some time. One is a Vietnamese Woman who is a former political prisoner, and another is a vaguely Eastern-European man (Waltz), who is Damon’s neighbor, judging by his accent. Truly, these two characters are what kept the film in a chokehold of unoriginality, in a film that has so much potential on the surface. The concept is brilliant, no doubt, and although moments of brilliance shine through the mud and dirt of this scatterbrained screenplay every once in a while, they simply are overpowered by these two characters. Now, to truly understand just how terrible the writing (and performances) of these two characters are, you need to see the film for yourself, but even though you may think you are prepared for such hideous, socially tone-deaf storytelling, I assure you, you are not. Downsizing felt, at times, like the best of the few most recent Adam Sandler films, and even the best he has had to offer cinema these last few years is next to nothing, even playing into the offensive stereotypes that most find not socially acceptable in media nowadays. This really is a shame, too, as the entire first act of the film leading up to the “downsizing” of Matt Damon’s character Paul is, for all intents and purposes, intelligent and imaginative in a completely unique way.
Downsizing feels like a film that should have been made decades ago. The score, writing, and acting styles all work against the creative vision of the film to create a style which resemble films from the early 1990’s. It is a feeling I cannot quite describe in better detail than that, but trust me, if you are familiar with most comedies from this era, Downsizing is truly a blast from the past in the worst way. If you ever want to watch this film (which you probably should not), wait for it to come to on-demand services. Even if this occurs in the not-too-distant future, you should probably just seek out Payne’s other work, as opposed to what is perhaps 2017’s worst cinematic case of wasted potential.