Whenever a movie comes along that has an interesting premise, the trailer is supposed to give you a good sense of what the story is about and get you into the theater to see it. The trailer for Alexander Payne’s latest movie Downsizing intrigued me just enough to see it for myself. I really enjoyed his past films, Nebraska, the Descendants, Election and felt confident that I would be in good hands. Having seen it, the premise was very sound but the overall film suffers from a massive identity crisis. It’s clear that their was an attempt to have a message here, the first twenty minutes lay the foundation pretty clearly. By the time the third act ends, not only was the train off the rails, it definitely took out the train next to it.
When I mentioned the premise before, it’s pretty bad that when Damon enters the world of the small, it’s extremely underwhelming. We get minor glimpses of the miniaturized world and its people, but the film locations are largely confined to a few interior settings which don’t really give us the sense that we are in this world of the small. This changes a bit towards the end, but it feels that by this point in the movie it’s a bit too little to late (no pun intended.)
Damon’s character Paul is painted as very altruistic in nature, which is fine in itself, but his decisions throughout the film begin to make less sense the further along we go. When we finally get to the dreaded third act, you have to wonder how this guy wasn’t drafted into some kind of cult earlier in his life. I will say I really enjoyed Damon’s neighbor played by Christoph Waltz. He added the humor the film really needed and you can’t help but miss him whenever he isn’t on screen.
If I had to break it down, the initial set up was very good but once we get shrunk down to size, it gets progressively worse until the credits roll. For me, I would have kept Paul on the path to help the people in his new community and cut the entire Norway sequence completely. I’m disappointed to say avoid this one completely.