By: Lana K. Wilson-Combs
In the satirical comedy “Downsizing”
from director Alexander Payne (“Nebraska” and Sideways”), bigger isn’t better. Getting small is. Downsizing is the wave of the future and a welcome answer to overpopulation.
In “Downsizing” scientists have discovered a means to shrink humans to five inches with no side effects. Everything on you would function as normal.
Wrap your head around that.
It’s a preposterous concept for sure, but one which Payne and the film’s co-writer Jim Taylor (“Sideways”) sell so convincingly in “Downsizing” that you go along with this odd and intriguing premise.
Imagine too, just how little you would need to exist if you were five inches tall.
Paul Safranak (Matt Damon, “Suburbicon”) works as an occupational therapist in Omaha, Nebraska and is married to Audrey (Kristen Wiig, TV’s “The Last Man on Earth” and “Nobodies”). They both make decent money, but are in debt and stuck in dead in jobs.
When they hear the pitch about the benefits of downsizing and entire communities—Leisureland—that are centered around downsized people, they’re intrigued. Paul is more intrigued than Audrey.
Paul sees the change as a comeuppance to their lifestyle. They can live large for so much less. Their $152,000 combined salary is equal to $12.5 million in their small world.
They’re fully convinced after listening to Leisureland infomercials from the husband and wife team of Jeff and Laura Lonowski (Neil Patrick Harris, TV’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events”) and Laura Dern (TV’s “Twin Peaks” and “F is for Family”).
Plus, they like the idea that airlines are “getting more and more small friendly.”
After talking with an old high school friend (Jason Sudekis, TV’s “The Last Man on Earth”) and making a personal visit to Leisureland to meet with an administrator (Donna Lynne Champlin, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and sales rep (Niecy Nash, TV’s “Claws”), Paul and Audrey decide to take the plunge. At least Paul does. Audrey chickens out the last minute and leaves Paul hanging. When he’s scooped up with a spatula and sent to the recovering room, Audrey is nowhere to be found, but calls him and tries to explain why she bailed.
There are definitely benefits to being small, but Paul soon finds out in his new community that his decision—which by the way can’t be reversed—may not have been his best.
The second half of “Downsizing” takes an odd turn, but not to the point that you tune it out. In his new surroundings, Paul meets the eccentric Dusan Mirkovic (a funny Christoph Waltz, “The Legend of Tarzan”) and befriends a Vietnamese cleaning woman Ngoc Lan Tran (a splendid Hong Chau, “Inherent Vice” and TV’s “American Dad” and “Big Little Lies”). Paul is completely fascinated by Ngoc’s hard knock life story. She was an activist who was a shrunk against her will by the government.
And just when you think you’ve got the ends on “Downsizing,” director Alexander Payne flips the script and turns this into a much more socially conscious film. It’s unique, funny and really has something to say. The more it rolled along; “Downsizing” grew on me.
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Check Out This Trailer For "DOWNSIZING"
Lana K. Wilson-Combs is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics’ Association (BFCA), the Black Reel Awards Voting Academy and a Nominating Committee Voting Member for the NAACP Image Awards.