11:00 am EST, December 30, 2017

‘Downsizing’ movie review: An interesting attempt lacking focus

Downsizing tries to be too many things at once, ultimately losing its central focus, and causing it to be tedious and disconnected.

A scientist comes up with a method to shrink humans to be approximately five inches tall, in a procedure termed downsizing. A few years later, Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wiig) run into their old friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis) at their high school reunion, and discover that he downsized. The two of them decide to downsize due to their financial constraints, as money in the downsized world goes much further than money in the regular-sized world.

Throughout the film, there are many compelling ideas. Unfortunately, there are just too many. As soon as Downsizing begins to explore one of its concepts, it switches to another, always leaving the prior one feeling incomplete. While the film starts off being about shrinking for selfish, greedy reasons, we later discover that the goal of downsizing is to slow down climate change, by reducing consumption. Nevertheless, soon after Paul shrinks, it does not even matter what size he is.

Once Paul is in his downsized community, Leisure Land, the movie shifts focus as he befriends a Vietnamese dissident, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), who was downsized by her government as punishment for her activism.

Unexpectedly, Downsizing reinforces the concept of climate change, which is nice to see in such a significant movie. However, this is just one of the many foci of the movie, and its limited time is treated irresponsibly.

Downsizing presents the idea that humans are fated to become extinct in the not-so-distant future due to overconsumption depleting resources. In the film, downsizing was invented so humans would create less waste and use less energy. However, not enough people decide to downsize; therefore, it is not enough to reverse the fate of the human race.

The film finds positivity in making life the best you can in the present. If the film is going to present such facts about climate change and the fate of humanity, it is its responsibility to recommend some ways people can actually help because Downsizing is not in actuality an option. Finding joy in the present is not a viable avenue in this case.

Downsizing is not like Interstellar, which uses the effects of climate change as a catalyst for the larger plot, but rather Downsizing’s plot is largely about climate change. When the film does decide to focus on this, it feels more like a lecture than a movie, as it creates a weak story around this theme.

Because Downsizing juggles so many concepts, it never really feels like a single cohesive film. Each segment moves at an incredibly slow pace, as the movie never feels like it has a major arc. Instead, it just feels like there are a handful of expositions without a story attached.

Grade: B-

‘Downsizing’ opened in theaters December 22, 2017

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