Downsizing is one of those films that has a concept far greater than it’s plot and it’s a shame because whilst the story fundamentally falls short (no pun intended), it’s still very much an enjoyable world to explore. The issue of overpopulation for humanity has rarely been explored in the film, though most documentaries have already covered global issues such as climate change, which makes it refreshing to see it put here in the spotlight. What’s better is the way it’s director Alexander Payne places a solution towards it: by shrinking human to a height of five inches.
Hell. That alone is enough reason to see this film. Much like the film about the way an animal society would co-exist with each other in Zootopia, here we get to explore how us “normal” humans would live alongside those of the small kind. This is where Downsizing shines at its best. Not only do we get to visually see physical alterations and creations made to human society, such as small compartments on trains designed specifically for the small but we also get a short look at the divides that could exist between the small and normal humans. Divides from examining voting rights that they should or should not hold, since being small allow aspects such as tax exclusion, income changes and well – less infrastructure and amenities use. Though I would have enjoyed a lot more of an insight into this, as exploring the world in a bigger way with such a concept would fascinate me, I can appreciate that this film isn’t about the divides.
At the end of the day, it’s about a small man looking to find himself in a world that’s too big for him in many senses. Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek who soon faces several heavy hitting questions of life and a whole new meaning of what it is to love and to lose something you’ve held dearly in a matter of few short hours. This is where I feel most of the criticism to the film is placed, as such a choice to focus rather on our protagonist instead of the world created has many feeling divided. Although I’m more reluctant to agree with those people, I can see how they have a point. The world of downsizing is fascinating to watch on screen, thanks to most part of the brilliant technology of modern filmmaking. One could not make this 50 years ago. I’m saddened to think the comedic likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton would have been so envious to use such a setting to create something spectacular and hilarious. So hence when you have such a playful and large world to explore, suffice to say it’s difficult for any protagonist to live up to such heights.
Having said this, it by no means makes it terrible to watch. I truly sympathized with everything Paul went through and I enjoyed how he was as a person and who he became by the end of his arc. Side characters such as Christoph Waltz as his loud and party crazy neighbor were a fun burst of enthusiasm to watch and the relationship his cleaner and Paul was a sweet touch. But obviously, this film demands more attention to the world it created and perhaps that’s where Alexander Payne wasn’t sure of where to go in. How can you match a story that has a concept so wild and creative that it would almost always outshine anything you could write?
So whilst Downsizing might polarize critics, I for one feel that it’s positives far outweigh the negatives and that it is very much an underrated high concept affair. It’s no Oscar piece of filmmaking but by golly is it still fun to watch on screen. See it.