Film, Sci-Fi
2 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(1user review)

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

Matt Damon and Kristin Wiig co-star in a stature-challenged future-shock comedy that reduces Alexander Payne's bite to a pinch

"I am big – it’s the pictures that got small," Hollywood’s Norma Desmond spits out in Sunset Boulevard. Now, Sideways and Nebraska director Alexander Payne (working with his longtime co-writer Jim Taylor) has found a way to make both the stars and the pictures small. Downsizing is a self-satisfied sci-fi nothingburger that shies away from its early promise and goes about as deep as your average Black Mirror episode. Miniaturisation – shrinking yourself to enjoy a new economy for the ‘community of the small’ – may be the way forward in an equity-poor future world, in which one can finally afford a McMansion or diamond earrings provided they’re roughly two-thousandths of the typical size. But the vicious satire you have in your head never materialises. Downsizing your expectations will help.

Payne still loves skewering middlebrow banality and, after an early lab sequence that plays like a dorky update of 1966’s Fantastic Voyage, the filmmaker brings on his best joke: the boyish face of Matt Damon. Damon’s sweet-natured Omaha dweller, Paul, already seems like an uncomfortably grown-up kid, so what difference is five more feet going to make? After watching an old school friend get wheeled into a class reunion in a fancy hamster cage (the guy’s just as chatty and popular), Paul and his wife Audrey (Kristin Wiig, not given enough to do) decide to investigate. The strengths of Downsizing echo some of the gags of Woody Allen’s wryly anti-future Sleeper: even after Paul makes the technological leap (which culminates grandly with the ding of a microwave), the doctors in his new eco-friendly luxury community of ‘Leisureland’ still mispronounce his last name. Later, while working a job as a phone salesman, Paul takes offence at a customer’s ‘Don’t get short with me’.

As medium-grade satire, Downsizing works fine enough. But it makes a series of wrong moves that throw off the delicate tone, raising the pretension levels to toxic. Two Eurotrashy neighbours (Christoph Waltz and Udo Kier) blur Payne’s critique on social climbing; they’re way too gaudy. Later, the introduction of a cringeworthy Vietnamese cleaning woman and ex-dissident (Hong Chau) borders on broken-English caricature. The movie want to get at bigger ideas about human extinction and the sustainability of ‘perfect’ communities, but it forgets the simplest thing, which is to show how the outside world would interact with these tiny jerks. Where’s the wider perspective? Lost up its own minuscule navel, Downsizing is a film that gets around to a toothless variation on ‘size doesn’t matter’, but Payne ought to know that’s the most boring idea imaginable, big or small.


Release details

Release date:
Tuesday December 26 2017
135 mins

Cast and crew

Alexander Payne
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor
Matt Damon
Kristen Wiig
Christoph Waltz
Udo Kier
Hong Chau

Users say (1)

4 out of 5 stars

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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1 person listening

I can't understand most of the negative reviews to this film. The trailers give a different impression to what this film is really all about. It resembles a humanist Charlie Kaufmann type film. The tonal shifts in this film didn't bother me as it is an extremely ambitious, complex film with big ideas. I can see this film in two decades being re-evaluated and regarded as a masterpiece. Deserves better consideration.