Movie Review: Downsizing
Director: Alexander Payne
by Jason Koenigsberg
A social satire fantasy about a man who shrinks himself sounds like a major departure for Alexander Payne. The director of some of the most humanistic comedies of the 21st century such as About Schmidt (2002), Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011) feels like he sold out his more personal films for a bigger budget Matt Damon star vehicle. That is exactly what Downsizing is, an interesting concept, not fully realized yet fleshed out into a two and a quarter hour motion picture.
It opens up with a shot of an office building covered in snow, stating to the audience that we live cold, isolated, sterile lives. The list of Downsizing is what you have seen in every trailer and TV spot; most people are miserable and work mundane jobs longing to find meaning in their lives. Matt Damon is searching for meaning while working a fairly thankless job in Ohama, Nebraska. The setting is important since Nebraska is where most of Alexander Payne’s films take place, his last movie was even titled Nebraska (2013). Damon’s character decides to undergo the new procedure known as “downsizing” to improve his economic situation and it is also a weak metaphor to finding meaning in his life.
“Downsizing” was created as a scientific answer to solving the worlds overpopulation problem. However most people use it as a way to improve their financial status since it is much more inexpensive to live and have finer things in life if someone is five inches tall. The biggest problem with Downsizing is that it lacks subtly. The film is far too blatant with its metaphor. It is an obvious satire on our current political, economic, and environmental issues while also trying very hard to be a story about romantic love and sacrifice. Downsizing ends up being mediocre at both. It is a lighthearted drama, that scarcely deserves to be called a comedy since I did not laugh out loud once.
It is admirable that Downsizing touches on the fact that there is always going to be poverty and a working class in every human society. This is something the late great George Romero touched on even better and with more subtly in his fourth zombie film Land of the Dead (2005). Who would have ever thought a zombie movie would have more subtly than an Alexander Payne film? This is the first Alexander Payne movie I have disliked. The worst aspect of Downsizing is how it painstakingly tries to show people of all races and cultures downsizing as an action for all of humanity to take. By the end one might feel they were beaten over the head with its message so obviously they might walk out of the theater with a headache.
Skip Downsizing and stay home and watch the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989). It’s a Disney movie that might lack subtext but it sure is a more fun adventure and will make you miss when Rick Moranis was a viable leading man.