Greg Eichelberger reviews 'Downsizing'

Greg Eichelberger
Staff Writer

If one can ignore the global warming claptrap and end of the world nonsense, then "Downsizing" might be just perfect film to see this week. With a smart script, decent acting all around and enough humor to keep the heavy drama grounded, this creation by Alexander Payne ("Sideways," "About Schmidt," "Nebraska") is sure to be on many a critic's Top 10 list (and but for an early deadline for our Bingham magazine, would have been on mine, as well). Conversely, the film may also end up some of the worst lists - it really could go either way.
It's present-day America, but Finnish scientists have developed a method to shrink living creatures, beginning with rats and eventually moving up to humans. A wacky professor who believes mankind will die of some cataclysmic disaster convinces his wife and 30 others to subject themselves to being shrunk to 1 percent of their current size and placed inside a compound designed to keep out insects and other (now) monstrous animals.
Now the story shifts to Nebraska, with Paul Safranek, which is constantly pronounced wrong (Matt Damon, following disappointing performances in "The Great Wall" and "Suburbicon"), and wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig, no stranger to bad roles herself, including "Masterminds" and the terrible remake of "Ghostbusters," among others). He works as an occupational therapist while she complains about their lack of money.
However, since downsizing has become commercially available, the government is pushing the procedure to "save the earth." It also seems that when a person shrinks, their economic viability grows, so the Safranek's net worth is now more than $12 million.
They then decide to go for it, get small and move to an exclusive resort community filled with unbelievable luxuries and are treated like royalty - until Audrey backs out of the arrangement and then divorces Paul, who goes from a mansion to a mid-level apartment building. There he meets smuggler Dusan Mirkovic (Christof Waltz, "The Hateful Eight") and ship captain (Udo Kier, "The Forbidden Room"). Later, he runs into a loud, annoying Vietnamese amputee, Ngoc Tran (Hong Chau, Golden Globe nominated for this role) who drags Paul to the REAL side of the smallville community, a slum area located near the main gate without a net to protect them from the elements.
For some reason, Paul is ordered around by the diminutive Ngoc to perform as a doctor, clean houses and deliver food to poor and non-working individuals.
Dumas then arranges a smuggling trip to deliver huge bottles of vodka to that first colony in Norway, with the irritating Ngoc insinuating herself into the journey, despite the fact no one wants her along. However, of course, in a film like this, her and Paul fall in love (more like MAKE love) on the boat. They also run into the nutty professor who convinces the now larger group to burrow into a mountain to escape supposed methane gasses coming form the Arctic or something like that.
This forces Paul into a choice of going with the idiots or staying with the dominating harpy - like taking arsenic or hemlock ... Whatever his choice is, though, it's not a very satisfying conclusion. Had the core story been a little stronger and the ending a bit clearer, perhaps it would not have split the critical community and fallen a bit short for audiences. For this scribbler, however, there is just enough intelligence in this movie to make it one of the more interesting projects of 2017. Written by Payne and Jim Taylor (who ran the gamut from the stupidity of "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry" to the ingenuity of "Sideways"), it's flawed, yes, but worth seeing, at least once.
Grade: C+