I’m a longtime fan of director Alexander Payne.
From his edgy “Election” to “Nebraska,” “About Schmidt” and “Sideways,” he’s one of my favorite filmmakers.
Although the idea of a science-fiction morality piece is different from what we’ve seen in his previous work, he makes it just as successful as his previous films as he blends humor with sorrow — the stuff of which the human condition is made.
The idea of “Downsizing” is that people have the opportunity to miniaturize themselves. Their money is worth more in the small world, where they lead lives of luxury with other people of the same size. And the smaller-sized people don’t use up the earth’s resources — could this be an answer to overpopulation and climate issues?
Matt Damon plays Paul, a nice guy who is a physical therapist in the Midwest. He and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) seem contented but a bit restless as they seek something more. When Paul hears a news report about a scientist who has managed “downsize” people, he thinks that’s an interesting concept.
After Paul talks with others who have been downsized, he becomes more intrigued with the idea. He and Audrey carefully make their plans to downsize. Except everything doesn’t work out as Paul expects.
When Paul begins to adapt to the colony of small people, he makes some discoveries about himself and those around him. His newfound “utopia,” it seems, isn’t so much a new approach to living as a reflection of the world at large — so to speak.
Payne wrote the screenplay with his longtime collaborator Jim Taylor. While it’s true that the tone of the movie transitions, so does Paul’s life and, eventually, his beliefs.
While we watch Paul ponder his new surroundings, consider what may become a global incident and fall for another woman, we begin to question what our own reactions would be. Damon is the perfect everyman with whom audiences can relate. Just as he did in “The Martian,” Damon breathes life into a character that becomes a vehicle for us to explore ourselves.
One of his co-stars, Hong Chau, is a revelation. Her performance is one of the finest of the year, and there’s no doubt she will be nominated in Best Supporting Actress competitions.
Depending on your perspective, the film has either a grim finale or a hopeful one. Regardless of your point of view, this intelligent film will make you think, and maybe shed a tear, while you laugh at its wit and absurdity.