First Hit: Slow, tedious, and, at times, funny and the only thing that made it worthwhile was Hong Chau as Ngoc Lan Tran.
Tran doesn’t appear until the last third of the film, but she changes the film and energetically makes the film interesting and better. Up until then the main character, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon), is generally depressed and lacks any energy.
Damon is too good an actor to phone it in, and therefore he must have been delivering what director and writer Alexander Payne wanted.
There is a point to the film and it’s about how humans are systematically destroying the planet. Norwegian scientist Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen (Rolf Lassgard) wanting to find a way to slow down the destruction, comes up with making people smaller. In this case a normal 6’ person gets shrunk to about 5”. Asbjornsen figures it will allow humans to consume fewer resources and give us time to figure out how to save the planet.
The upside to downsizing, as it is called, is that your money is worth about one hundred times as much. This makes it worthwhile for people to downsize as they can afford to live a life of luxury. Paul and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) are struggling financially and if they choose to downsize they can life a great life.
As Paul finds himself living a less than stellar life as a downsized person he has some regrets. When he meets, and spends a bit of time with his neighbor Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) his life begins to change.
However, it really begins to change and the film begins to get interesting when Paul gets involved with helping Tran. Tran organized and led protests in Vietnam, survived prison time for her involvement, was downsized by the government, and escaped Vietnam inside flat screen shipping box. She became famous for this escape from Vietnam so Paul recognized her when he saw her.
Given her past, she works to help anyone who is struggling to survive in the downsized city they live in. Paul becomes inspired by her.
The visuals of the downsized world are excellent. The comedy comes from this and some of the interactions between the characters.
Damon was mediocre and I don’t know if this was a poor performance by him or by the script and direction. There were times I could sense and feel Damon trying to make the scene better but to no avail. Waltz was mediocre as well. He’s another reliable actor who can deliver and I’ve got to believe that script and direction failed him. Lassgard was OK as the discovering scientist and leader of the movement to downsize and survive. Wiig had a very small part in this film and her scenes seemed strained and pressed. Chau was priceless. It was worth the price of admission just to watch her perform in this film. She was spot-on sublime. Payne and Jim Taylor wrote the script which ended up being restrictive and pressed. Payne had no business directing this because the vision was too restrictive as the acting showed. He had great tools but it didn’t work.
Overall: I had high hopes for this film and liked the characters, but it came up short, real short.