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Review: Downsizing (TIFF)

Downsizing (TIFF)
09.14.2017
6 10

PLOT: A suburban man (Matt Damon) voluntarily undergoes miniaturization in order to join a small-person’s community where his middle class savings will make him wealthy.

REVIEW: Alexander Payne’s DOWNSIZING is nothing if not ambitious - perhaps too much so. It’s as big and broad as NEBRASKA was modest and niche, with a killer premise that, after a terrific first half, eventually loses steam as the film shifts gears into more sentimental territory.

Matt Damon plays our every man hero who, along with his wife (Kristen Wiig) yearns for a better life, although, in a sly nod to rampant commercialism, this better life basically means being rich. His answer comes along when an old high school pal (Jason Sudeikis) comes to their high school reunion after having been shrunk down to only six inches. This is as part of a scientific breakthrough where scientists, in a bid to build a more sustainable society, have developed a process where humans can be shrunk and live in small communities that will only consume a fraction of what a regular sized person does. The big enticement - the equivalent worth of your current money means a regular Joe like Damon here, will, in essence, be worth millions.

It’s this part of the film, when Payne adopts a sharp-witted satiric tone, that really works. The first half is terrific, with Damon’s gradual integration into the community a sharp dig at commercialism gone mad (with great cameos by Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern as fellow downsized neighbors). Damon is perfect as the regular guy lead, with Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier hilarious as his randy next door neighbors, who import contraband (booze and drugs) and live life as a great big, never-ending party.

The movie starts to go off the rails when the satire is mostly dropped in favor of a more sentimental side, when Damon meets a Vietnamese dissident (played by Hong Chau), who was forcibly shrunk down and fed-exed to the U.S, and now is forced to scrape by doing menial jobs in their community, literally, for their leftovers. As Damon becomes more attuned to the reality of her situation, the film becomes more sprawling, taking then on an international jaunt to the first small community in Norway, and even dealing with the potential apocalypse, with the movie, eventually, feeling more like a Wim Wenders road movie (particularly UNTIL THE END OF THE WORLD) than an Alexander Payne one.

It shows that Payne really does have a bit of a range, and Chau’s character never feels authentic, in that her dialogue feels stereotypical and goofy, as does the eventual romance between her and Damon, which is too sweet for what, up to this point, had been a pretty cynical movie. Running a lengthy 140 minutes, DOWNSIZING aspires to be an epic, but it’s really only effective in the first seventy or so minutes, when Payne’s doing what he does best - sharply satirizing the middle class. Once it tries to go beyond that, the movie falters and doesn’t quite come-off, but hey, at least it’s half of a great movie

Source: JoBlo.com

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