24 December 2017| No Comments on Downsizing     by Sean Chavel



Of all the bad movies I’ve ever seen, at least this one has a handful of mesmerizing tidbits. Downsizing comes from exactly the kind of brain factory as I could have wanted. That of writer/director Alexander Payne (“Sideways,” “Election”) and his co-writing partner Jim Taylor. The movie ends up having schizoid intentions to the worst degree. Payne’s movie is very, very smart. And it’s very, very dumb. It can try very hard to be a feel-good movie, but it’s not feel-good enough. It can try very hard to be a harsh satirical criticism of how we as people have wrongly consumed the planet, but it isn’t harsh or mean enough. The movie falls into some kind of noncommittal neutral zone.

In an imagined future, a Norwegian scientist has figured out a way to shrink human beings to five inches tall. This scientist convinces the world that if people in large bulks commit themselves to downsizing, they can save the world. Communities would take up less space, create less trash, and contribute much less to the disintegration of the ozone layer. It would be great for the lazy affluent people of the world because a fair amount of savings would translate into millions of dollars.

There are some intriguing characters here. The salesmen at “Leisureland,” of course, who sell retirement-like living yet explain why they themselves are ineligible to do it. Kristen Wiig as a selfish wife who’s on then off with downsizing. Jason Sudeikis as a kind of pitchman for going small as a means for attaining a kind of a superficial status quo that’s supposed to be enviable. Christoph Waltz as a lounge lizard who loves the hubris that comes with living small. Udo Kier as a retired sea captain and up-in-years bachelor who lives small but still travels the globe, declaring he sees more of the world now that he’s small. Hong Chau, quite terrific with her farm-roots bluster, as a Vietnamese refugee who caused a stir for her humanitarian efforts, escaping prison by going small, and traveled the seas until she reached the safety of America while five inches tall.

The star of the movie is Matt Damon, who is the blandest of bologna on white bread. The blandest that Damon has been since “We Bought a Zoo” (2011) which was his career worst performance. Don’t get me wrong. Damon is one of my favorite actors. It concerns me somewhat that Damon might never have another Tom Ripley or Colin Sullivan in him. Talking about downwards trends, the earnestness he displays in “Downsizing” is insufferable. For every great idea that Payne plants in the film (about racism, about refugees, about the economic disparities), we have to endure Damon’s character, a guy once small who can’t make up his mind in how he can be the most charitable version of a guy that he can possibly be.

One idea is for Damon – late in the movie – to join a remote community in Norway (it’s really a collection of the globe’s most liberal, tree-hugging group) who are going to habitat a landscaped colony underneath the Earth. The reasoning behind it is that the polar ice caps have just melted, and the Earth is eventually doomed. Underline the word eventually, if you may.

Leave it to Waltz to have the best line of the movie when he explains all these liberals are just going to go stir-crazy and kill each other while underground. This colony is going under a couple hundred years too early.

What Payne is missing in some of these later scenes are effective dramatic obstacles. To get to this colony in Norway, all the main characters take a boat trip – while small, and on a small boat, down a majestic and beautiful Norway Fjord. They do this unprotected and unaided by big humans. I’m sorry, but a good special effects shot would have entailed of a bird, or two, landing atop of this little person’s boat and terrorizing them.

For the bulk of the movie, little persons had to live under a dome so they wouldn’t, you know, get squashed or terrorized by vigilantes or anything. But now we get scenes in Norway of all these tiny people out in the open. They are not going to be out in the open for long (hence, go live underground). But you’d think there would be more life-and-death predicaments within the scenario.

With all the squishy Damon thinking going on and untapped thematic potential, “Downsizing” is a downright disappointment. There are still a handful of smart scenes that are worth seeing though if you are still helplessly intrigued.


140 Minutes. Rated R.


Film Cousins: “The Incredible Shrinking Man” (1957); “The Incredible Shrinking Woman” (1981); “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” (1989); “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” (2012).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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