Downsizing Review
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Throughout his career, Alexander Payne has directed some quirky yet thought-provoking films—from Election to The Descendants. His latest film, Downsizing, is easily his biggest, most ambitious project yet. But, as we’ve see time and time again, just because it’s bigger than his other films, that doesn’t mean that it’s better.

Downsizing begins with a scientific breakthrough that allows humans to be shrunk down to just five inches tall for the purpose of reducing waste and solving other problems related to worldwide overpopulation. It soon becomes clear that downsizing has an additional benefit: allowing small people to live on a fraction of the money that they normally would. After talking to an old classmate who went through the procedure and is now living in luxury, struggling occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), decide to downsize, too. But, as with everything else in Paul’s life, downsizing doesn’t go as planned.

Downsizing is easily the most perplexing film of the year. The marketing materials seem to promote it as a kooky comic adventure—the story of a guy who decides to have himself shrunk down to a fraction of regular size and live in a teeny-tiny mansion surrounded by his teeny-tiny friends. And, to be fair, there are plenty of quirky moments. After all, the whole idea is a little crazy, and it lends itself to all kinds of mishaps.

Still, it doesn’t take long for it to become clear that this isn’t really a comedy. Downsizing is the story of a man who gave up on his dreams to care for his sick mother, and now he can’t afford to move out of his childhood home. When he tries to make a positive change, he ends up living alone in a bland apartment. He tries to help the people around him, and they thank him by verbally abusing him and taking advantage of his kindness. Doesn’t really sound like a fun holiday comedy, does it?

Instead, it’s an entirely off-putting film. It never truly settles into a tone, which means that the comedy always feels a little uncomfortable, and the serious moments feel uncertain. The point of it all is unclear—as is the reason why the characters need to be five inches tall. While the characters’ size lends to some clever—and often beautiful—sets, the whole thing is really just one big, bizarre mess.

Downsizing is a big movie based on a big idea, but it’s also got a big problem: it never really figures out where it wants to go. Don’t let the marketing campaign fool you: this is far from fun-filled holiday viewing.

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