There is an ingenious idea at the centre of Downsizing which could have easily carried the whole movie. The idea of shrinking people down to the size of 5 inches and have them live their lives in tiny houses, with tiny supplies but essentially live like millionaires is one with plenty of potential and scope that could go in a range of different directions. Which is why it was strange when Downsizing seemed to forget about its major selling-point for the second half of the movie.
The first half does start promisingly and you’ll find yourself engrossed and entertained by the idea of people shrinking themselves and the way they cope with this bizarre life. Matt Damon is the everyman audience member and when he first sees Jason Sudeikis in a box, being carried around and then placed on a table to greet everyone, you start to see the wonder and range of ideas that this could have.
The further the idea is explored, the better it is. The exchange in money makes perfect sense, the idea of living in what seems like a dolls house, with a whole community of tiny people starting to develop. The whole process of actually shrinking people is delved into, from the removal of teeth through to the integration into people’s new, tiny lives.
There is so much that could have been explored here even before Matt Damon’s character’s life falls apart. There is a central story here, one that has tragedy, social and political commentary as well as a focus on how we are effecting our environment. Which becomes Downsizing’s biggest problem because it clearly doesn’t know what it wants to be.
The second half of the film becomes a tame love story, a movie about “finding yourself,” another film about belonging and the extreme lengths we’ll go to save the planet or ourselves. All of this works very well as a singular idea but becomes messy and disjointed when it tries to serve all those purposes at once. The biggest crime, as these different strands are woven, is that it forgets the “tiny person” gimmick which was the hook in the first place.
As Matt Damon connects with his new life, the fact that he has been shrunk gets dismissed. If everyone is small then nobody is small and the movie builds upon the central idea by almost completely dismissing it altogether. Aside from the odd comment as the movie progresses into it’s third act, it is easy to forget that this is what has happened in the first place.
This wouldn’t be an issue if the second half of the movie was very good but it starts to drag. The messages of the movie clunk and you find yourself waiting for the inevitable, almost predictable outcome rather than get lost in a new and potentially original world.
Overall, Downsizing feels like a missed opportunity. Matt Damon holds his own as a man who is shrunk to 5 inches only to see his life slowly fall apart but instead of focus on the unique selling point of the movie, the story becomes a muddle of political and socially heavy morals and messages that become a drag to watch.
Rating – 3.5
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