Small is beautiful. So, suggests Downsizing, a sci-fi comic fantasy which employs the conceit of the Malthusian theory of over-population to make a brilliant point. Acclaimed director Payne has co-scripted with Jim Taylor, a film which posits the possibility of downsizing—a process of miniaturising people – as a tool to save the world. As the Norwegian scientists who invented downsizing reasoned, little people would need only a fraction of the earth’s resources.
Their discovery results in the mushrooming of miniature communities like Leisure Land begin which attracts Omaha couple Paul and Audrey Safranek (Matt Damon and Kirsten Wiig) What’s the big deal? Live like a millionaire on middle class salaries, Paul’s newly shrunken friend Jason Sudeikis tells him. The only catch: The process is irreversible.
Paul wakes up from to find wife Audrey changed her mind. An occupational therapist, Paul is the quintessential nice guy who, at the home of his cynical Serbian neighbour Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Walz, impressive) meets Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau, amazing) a Vietnamese dissident who was downsized against her will and lost a leg in the process. Now, here she is in Leisure land cleaning houses for a living instead of writing books, academia and appearing on TV.
Despite her straitened circumstances, Tran is a do-gooder who feeds the hungry and nurses the sick or dying. After a hard day’s work, she goes to church for praise and worship. Paul is flummoxed by her devotion to Jesus and shocked by the slums outside the gated community of samosa-loving Hindus, turbaned Sikhs, ultra-orthodox Hassidic Jews and hedonists like Little Ronni, who was the first miniature baby born in Leisure land. Alack and alas, the downsizing also shrank his morals to zero.
If Gulliver’s Travels was a satire, Downsizing is a fable which underlines hard work and charity to make a point about depletion of natural resources and over consumption. Interestingly, Tran’s charismatic Christianity doesn’t stop her from an inappropriate encounter with Paul or spewing F words in a scene where she gets mad with him for wanting to join the diminutive agrarian community in the underground “Noah’s Ark” built by the pioneering downsized scientist, who believes homo sapiens will soon be rendered extinct by environmental degradation or apocalyptic war. Director Payne juxtaposes playfulness with pathos. Long and thought-provoking, Downsizing will make you laugh a little, sigh a little, even cry a little. Don’t miss it.
Cast: Matt Damon, Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, Udo Kier, Rolf Lassgård, Ingjerd Egeberg
Director: Alexander Payne
Rating: * * * *