Downsizing (2017)
December 26, 2017 12:33 AM - Subscribe

A social satire in which a guy realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself.

Downsizing is a 2017 science fiction and social satire movie directed by Alexander Payne. It stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Rolf Lassgård and Udo Kier.

As a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to 5 inches (13 centimeters) tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small. People soon realize how much further money goes in a miniaturized world, and with the promise of a better life, everyman Paul Safranek (Damon) decides to abandon his stressed life in Omaha in order to become small and move to a new downsized community — a choice that triggers life-changing adventures.
posted by daybeforetheday (9 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Haven't seen the film. The conversation surrounding it has been interesting, though.

Hong Chau is apparently portraying a character who is a disabled activist. She's been nominated for a SAG and Golden Globe award and reportedly steals every scene she's in. She's playing a multifaceted, intersectional character. We don't see disabled characters on screen all that often. We don't see meaty roles for Asian women in film all that often, either.

But many of reviewers are focusing on her affected, heavy Vietnamese accent. (Chau was born in Thailand to Vietnamese immigrant parents.) Which to be fair, is worth examining and discussing. Screencrush noted that "the film heavily relies on Ngoc Lan’s broken English for laughs, and worst of all, it seems to excuse that icky, racist caricature...." She has had to repeatedly defend her choice to portray the character that way.

Chau has been trying to steer the controversy back to a focus on increasing diversity and representation in film:
Chau learned how to portray a woman who lost her leg by working with an amputee consultant, going to her rehabilitation center to learn how to move correctly. “I think one in five Americans has a disability of some sort. That’s 20% of the population, and yet we rarely ever see people with disabilities on-screen, and their stories and their resilience and their zest for life and their humor and their humanity.

“So I hope that, in addition to people seeing this role and being inspired that she’s an Asian woman, they’re also inspired that she’s a person with a disability, and I hope that inspires them to write more stories.”
Meanwhile, the film's star just cannot seem to stop offering his relentlessly stupid hot takes about the #metoo movement and sexual harassment and assault.

Whether or not any of this hurts its box office take remains to be seen.
posted by zarq at 7:23 AM on December 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

So I wasn't able to figure out from the trailer whether its a sci-fi film (look, we can miniaturize people!), a commentary film (look at these people who are still suffering), a comedy (look at people getting a lifetime supply of vodka out of a fifth!) or ... what, exactly. All of the above?
posted by Kyol at 8:44 AM on December 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Is the idea of satirical sci-fi really so strange?
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:47 AM on December 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm interested in this, having really liked Alexander Payne's previous work. I am worried by the trailer though. It just looks completely fucking bland, with Damon's character going on some sort of white savior journey. They might as well play Salsbury Hill and have a montage of him learning to live again. Guess thats a good excuse to read a bunch of reviews on the bus!
posted by kittensofthenight at 5:44 PM on December 26, 2017

with Damon's character going on some sort of white savior journey

I just saw it and that's pretty much the way it came across to me except Damon wasn't the only white savior. A central premise of the movie is that certain Scandinavians will have the unique ability to rebuild the Earth after climate change destroys it. Nothing against Scandinavians (and there pointedly was shown people of color and other cultures in the Noah's arc population) but I doubt this would be the movie a White supremacist would go to and end up seeing the error of their ways.
posted by fuse theorem at 7:34 PM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

All of the above?

Sort of. It's like there wasn't enough for it to be any of them on their own and they thought maybe it would amount to enough by putting them all together. Hong Chau's performance is the only thing that makes it other than an incongruous mixture of obviousnesses.
posted by Obscure Reference at 1:52 PM on December 28, 2017

A central premise of the movie is that certain Scandinavians will have the unique ability to rebuild the Earth after climate change destroys it.

Said Scandinavians certainly believe they have that ability. I think the movie gives good reason to doubt they'll be successful, though. Note Dusan's comments about them being a cult (and they seem to have some cult-like properties), and his prediction that they'll fall into violence just like every other society.

On a separate note, for about fifteen minutes after Konrad first appeared on screen, I was trying to figure out who the actor was and where I knew him from. I finally figured out it was Gregory Itzin.

Reader, it was not Gregory Itzin. Udo Kier — who, to my knowledge, I have not seen in anything before — seems to me to bear a strong resemblance to Itzin.

I did enjoy the cameos by Neil Patrick Harris and Laura Dern as the couple doing the tacky Leisureland home presentation.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 6:43 PM on January 2, 2018

This was a pretty terrible film.

The Laura Dern scene has her in a tub being berated by Harris for her spending. It could have been lifted from any movie scene in the 30's to 70's where a husband has to curb a wife's spending. In fact, Dern makes a comment about not breaking up a matching set of diamond earrings and bracelet which I am positive is lifted from any number of movies.

Damon's character is baffling. It's his mother's fault that he didn't become a doctor (she became ill and he was the primary catetaker). It's his wife's fault that he downsized (she wanted a big house and he barely finished paying off his student loans). Finally, he ends up caring for destitute people and not joining the cult because his girlfriend refused to enter the cult with him.

As for Hong Chau's accent, if that was her choice, fine. However, it's of a piece with the rest of the movie. Most of the poor tiny people are minorities. There's a montage of people hearing the news about the downsizing breakthrough and it's weird how Amercans hear it in a bar or restaurant; everyone else is outdoors in stark poverty---because nowhere else has housing. The original Norweigan village doesn't seem to have the tenements (poor brown people) that manifested in Leisure World.

The economics of having poor tiny people is also just stupid. The process is expensive and requires removing dental implants. It would be easier to kill dissidents. Unless the film is saying that poor brown people just breed so damn quickly they defy physics and can populate a small city in less than 10 years . . .It's a terrible, fucking movie.

The cult. The Scandinavians. Yeah, you're going to bury yourselves in the earth. You're tiny. Forever. How will you get out? Just the passage of time alone would have buried your exit if you hadn't intentionally buried it!

I feel less sane for having watched this.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 9:11 PM on February 3, 2018 [1 favorite]

I just watched this. I was pretty squicked out by the focus on Matt Damon and his journey.

Having tiny poor people makes sense to me because those super rich communities need people to run the place. So the only people who would do that are either people who got shrunk against their will/tricked or people for whom that is literally the best choice (and the world is so shitty it’s not hard for me to believe that is a better choice for some people). We have absolutely no back story on any of the poor people except the activist and her friend.

This movie was also interesting after reading Hugh Howie’s Wool series.

Im so glad they didn’t try to explain the science because that was a lost cause. But how did they shrink the rain? Or dust? That really bothered me, that the rain drops weren’t huge and there werent giant tumbleweeds of dust bunnies blowing around. I was interested in the concept of thinking what would happen if it really was only little people that survived, how would that would look. Or if some big people survived, what would happen when all these little people show up in like 8000 years.
posted by LizBoBiz at 1:18 AM on November 10, 2018

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