Tag: downsizing

REVIEW Downsizing (2018)

Fair warning: considerable spoilers follow – read after watching.

It is extremely rare to be surprised by a film. The way movies are written – especially those coming out of the Hollywood system – demands foreshadowing for almost every element of a story that might be considered surprising or might feel like it’s coming out of left-field. As a result, most big budget films are predictable. Look for the signs, and you can figure them out.

However, Downsizing is not one of those films. Directed by Alexander Payne, from a script by Payne and frequent collaborator Jim Taylor, Downsizing tells the story of the invention of a process that shrinks the human body to around 12 centimetres tall – a process the inventors conceive of as a way of reducing waste and helping save the planet in the face of a lack of resources, increasing pollution.

Payne makes the decision to follow Paul and Audrey Safranek (played by Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig), a couple who decide to go through with downsizing, but each for different reasons. However, their journey – and especially that of Paul – simply proves that, despite the obvious benefits, the baser instincts of humanity prevail. Instead of providing a solution to so many of the problems we face, our obsession with wealth and our tendency toward classism simply follow us into this smaller realm.

Downsizing is a film that is trying to say so many things about issues like global warming, about the human condition, about how we treat the less fortunate in our society – and it illustrates these points by taking the surprising route at every junction, from the early reveal (somewhat spoilt in trailers) that Paul’s wife backed out the last second, to the core “what do I do” conundrum at the end of the film, which I’m not going to spoil here.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the final act features one of the most unpredictable twists that I’ve ever seen in a film of this magnitude. Downsizing seems to be heading in one direction, then all of a sudden it becomes about something else.

And that is the main problem with what Payne has put on the screen: when the narrative of the film is shifting so much, twisting in so many directions, it affects how hard-hitting your message becomes.

For example, through Paul’s interactions with Ngoc Lan (played by Golden Globe nominee Hong Chau), the film tries to illustrate how going small affects the poorest in society, and how societal hierarchies simply shrink along with us. But it loses impact because the next scene shifts so quickly into comedy, then into some other problem facing humanity.

Funnily enough, the scope of the film actually expands over the course of just over two hours, with each act bringing in more of the world, from an intimate focus on Paul Safranik, to a wider view of the small city of Leisureland, to a macro view of the world at large, encompassing all of humanity. But, as mentioned, the impact is lost as we leave the old points behind and move on to something else entirely.

Despite these narrative shortcomings, Downsizing is a pretty good film. Payne’s direction – building on the success of The Descendants and Nebraska – is minimal in style, allowing the actors leeway to play their characters more naturally, lending the proceedings a kind of authenticity. Chau and Christoph Waltz, in particular, deserve a lot of praise.

Damon does a pretty good job, I guess. I thought he was kind of hammy at times, and seemed to be a little confused by everything that is going on. But I can’t decide if that is a positive or a negative; Paul Safranik is meant to be a little pathetic, and meant to be in a little over his head. As a result, the character – and the actor – look a little lost.

I’m also a big fan of the production design. Payne wisely chooses to stick to what adds to the story he is telling, and avoids clichés – there are no giant rats running rampant through town, no scenes of people eating giant sandwiches for a laugh. When the size difference is used, it is used purely for either comedic effect (such as a nurse bringing a giant cracker to Paul) or to illustrate a point (such as the sheer wonder of giant butterflies visiting a village).

This is most apparent during an early scene that demonstrates the entire shrinking procedure from start to finish. The process is shown in such a way that it almost feels like a choreographed musical number, and is absolutely delightful – proving that when the film gets it right, it absolutely nails it.

Ultimately, though, the good can’t outweigh the shortcomings of the story here. An entertaining and surprising film it is, but I can’t help but feel a little disappointed that the writing wasn’t quite there to back up such an interesting concept.

Downsizing is written by Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, directed by Payne, and stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz, Udo Kier, Jason Sudeikis and Rolf Lassgard. It is in cinemas now.

18 films I’m looking forward to in 2018

Now that 2017 is in the bag, let’s take a look forward at some of the films I’m most looking forward to this year …

The Shape Of Water (Jan 18)
Guillermo del Toro is at his best when he tackles a more intimate story like Pan’s Labyrinth or Crimson Peak – or like this period piece starring Sally Hawkins as a maintenance worker who falls for a captive sea creature.

Downsizing (Jan 25)
Alexander Payne directs Matt Damon and Hong Chau in this film about a future where humans can be shrunk to around 15cms tall in the name of conservation. Several outlets called this the best film of 2017. Colour me fascinated.

Cloverfield Movie/God Particle (Feb 1)
The less I know about this going in, the better. All I can tell you is that I love Cloverfield and 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Black Panther (Feb 15)
Avengers: Infinity War (Apr 25)
Ant-Man & The Wasp (Jul 5)
Marvel’s Cinematic Universe hits the first of its closing chapters in April when everybody gets together in Avengers: Infinity War – but before that, Black Panther returns for a solo film set in the fictional country of Wakanda. Panther is one of the best comic books in production right now, and I have high hopes for his solo flick. Plus, the Ant-Man sequel in July should be a lot of fun too.

Annihilation (Feb 23; mid-March on Netflix)
Natalie Portman plays a scientist who investigates a mysterious (and likely alien) phenomena after the disappearance and reappearance of her husband. A visually splendiferous film from the team who brought you Ex Machina – and thanks to producer fuckery, we get to see it on Netflix!

Ready Player One (Mar 29)
If you can name all the references in the below trailer for this film – directed by Steven Spielberg and based on the pop culture-heavy sci-fi novel from Ernest Cline – I will give you $50. I feel sure that you can’t.

The New Mutants (Apr 12)
Deadpool 2 (May 31)
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (Nov 1)
The line-up of X-Men films from Fox suddenly got a lot more interesting last month when Disney purchased Fox, with talk that the X-Men would be rolled in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Will these form the final chapters of this franchise? Will Deadpool reference the MCU in any way? Will New Mutants – a horror film – be used as a jumping off point? My guess is that Deadpool will tie-in down the track, and New Mutants will remain a standalone.

Solo: A Star Wars Story (May 24)
Also suddenly an intriguing proposition given the behind-the-scenes shenanigans, lacklustre response to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and the recent backlash to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Plus, this film is coming out in like five months, and there is no trailer yet? Hmm.

Jurassic World 2: Fallen Kingdom (Jun 21)
You know what? Jurassic World was fine – it was fine! And Chris Pratt is charming. And dinosaurs! DINOSAURS, MAN!

The Incredibles 2 (Jun 28)
Ralph Breaks The Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2 (Dec 26)
A sequel to one of the greatest superhero films ever made, and a sequel to one of the most-under-rated pop-culture-heavy animated films of the last few years? I’m in.

The Predator (Aug 2)
Shane Black is one of our best action writers/directors – Lethal Weapon 1 and 2, Iron Man 3 and The Nice Guys, to name just a couple – plus he has a link with the original Predator film, which is still one of the best action/sci-fi films ever made. And an intriguing cast: Sterling K Brown, Boyd Holbrook, Olivia Munn, Keegan-Michael Key, Alfie Allen … okay, okay, I’m keen.

Mortal Engines (Dec 13)
Peter Jackson produces this dystopian/cyberpunk epic about a world in which entire cities are mounted on wheels and hunt each other across the globe – it sounds insane, but it also sounds (and looks) insanely good.

Aquaman (Dec 26)
No film in 2018 has as much riding on it as Aquaman: following the reception to Justice League, Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Suicide Squad and Man Of Steel, it needs to be a critical and financial hit, or else it risks sinking DC/Warners’ movie plans. Luckily, they’ve proven they can make a good solo flick (Wonder Woman), so there is at least some hope. No trailer yet, but enjoy this GIF:


What films are you looking forward to in 2018?

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