This is a movie with a premise that has a narrow path for success and if it were to fall off it would be into Adam Sandler style comedy territory. My interest in this film stemmed from two things, the director Alexander Payne is a remarkable talent with such films as The Descendants and Sideways, and two, Matt Damon and Christoph Waltz. Beyond these few details this movie, the trailer to be precise, reminded me of a Sandler film, in the vein of Click. Luckily, the talent of these people balanced this film and drove it into the same territory as his previous movies, films that are relatable despite any extraordinary circumstances like shrinking to five inches tall. Yes there is a gimmick of being shrunk but wisely Payne chose not to focus solely on this but used it more as a jumping off point for the more important themes this story brings about.
The idea of shrinking is more about starting anew with a clean slate and a new world of possibilities. It’s the equivalent of moving to a new city and with it coming an opportunity to change yourself and rewrite what people can learn about you. Once on a promising path to becoming a doctor, Damon’s character gets stuck in life as a physical therapist for Omaha Steaks. When he shrinks himself he begins to see the new opportunities that he once felt he lost particularly his desire to help others. It’s about his self discovery and what part he will play in this new world of small and normal size people.
Payne likes to create character driven stories where the plot is interesting but moreso the characters elevate the plot into something far more fascinating. In The Descendants, Clooney’s character is faced with a life altering moment that his wife must be pulled from life support per her request written in her will should she ever be in a vegetative state. That’s the plot and now the characters come into play taking a simple enough task, heartbreaking but simple, and complicating it so much so that the plan is revealed in the beginning of the story and isn’t carried out until the final minutes of the film. From an uncertain husband dealing with the loss of his wife in more ways than one, to cranky, emotionally driven young daughters who set out to make this situation as difficult as possible for everyone involved, they are the driving force behind a simple idea becoming something profound. The important part is that these are human characters facing decisions honestly and without a cinematic flare simply because it adds volume to something possibly seen as flat and uninteresting. His cooky, heart-on-a-sleeve characters make even the mundanity of everyday life something to behold and to reflect upon and with Downsizing, this is no different.
He shrinks, someone moves from L.A. to New York; both are, at the end of the day, simply a change in routine and how a person may handle this is the compelling part of such major recourse. Changing his perspective on life allows him to see the world in a whole new way beyond simply being small. He sees the colors of the world and the stories written on people’s faces. He meets new and fascinating people that change his life from the most minute ways to the most epically life altering ways that change him to his very core. Or at least it allows what was already there to break free of fear of judgement and to embrace that which is beautiful in this world because as he flows through this new adventure, he learns just how delicate life truly is. Because of this new found lease on life, he begins to see himself as differently as a 5 inch tall person would see the world compared to their once average height.
The characters in this film are compelling and entertaining and because of them and the choice to use the shrinking aspect of the story as a jumpboard rather than an isolated boat with nowhere to go, this allows a very human story to shine through an unrealistic story mechanism. What you get with this is a relatable story with elements of the fantastical sprinkled in for a good measure of entertainment. It’s a wonderful balance of reality and fantasy combining for the good of the story and the characters inhabiting that world.
Rated R For: language including sexual references, some graphic nudity and drug use
Runtime: 135 minutes
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Sci-fi
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig, Hong Chau
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 3.5/ Visuals: 4
OVERALL: 3.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
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