I thoroughly loved the comedic sci-fi drama Downsizing. Scientists in Norway have discovered a way to impact global climate change by shrinking humans to dollhouse size, so less resources are being used. Fewer resources depleted, less garbage is created and pollution is a thing of the past, at least in the small world that the downsizing humans inhabit. It seems like a winning solution to an unprecedented growth of human numbers on earth, and to a crisis of climate change.
Paul Safranak (Matt Damon) is an occupational therapist, quiet, compassionate, and caring. He is married to Audrey (Kristen Wiig) who seems nice enough. They decide to join what is ultimately 3% of the world population who becomes small and lives in special communities where money goes far, and leisure time is great.
Complications arise, however, when Audrey chickens out at the last minute, leaving Paul high and dry. I wouldn’t normally tell you that, but I saw it in a trailer that I watched prior to seeing the film. Paul being suddenly single again figures prominently in the rest of the film as he sorts out his life in Leisureland.
He meets fellow small people from other parts of society, including Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) who is a freewheeling entrepreneur partying like it’s 1999, and taking Paul under his wing to show him a good time. But who cleans up these mansions the small people live in? Marginalized ethnic groups, that’s who. Paul meets a Vietnamese woman, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) who was injured being illegally smuggled into the U.S. and she introduces him to the reality of the lives and lower class housing of those that do the work.
In this world of small people, there really isn’t much difference from our present society. You have the workers, and the wealthy. Certain groups of people are still seen as being somehow inferior, and there continues to be corruption in governments who use the process of downsizing in unethical ways.
I loved the character of Paul, and Matt Damon is able to portray this thinking and compassionate man very well. Christoph Waltz is wonderful as free spirit Dusan, and adds a lightness to Paul’s existence. Hong Chau was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the Golden Globes this year for her performance as Ngoc Lan Tran. I liked her, but the way they had her speak English was annoying. The director had her speak in very broken English, and I think if she’d been in America long enough, she’d have picked up better sentence structure, and not been so limited linguistically. That’s about the only criticism I have of this film, and one that not everyone will likely agree with.
Downsizing is rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use. It brings to awareness the dire predicament the world is in. The ending is quite sobering and touching. If you enjoy other films from Payne/Taylor (Election, Sideways, The Descendents) you will enjoy Downsizing too.