Downsizing

review by Drusilla Blakey

One of the more unique filmmakers out there is Alexander Payne who has delivered some great films throughout his career including About Schmidt, The Descendants, and Nebraska. His latest film, Downsizing stars Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, and Jason Sudekis, but does it offer up his usual unique storytelling or will it be too small of a story to tell?

 

Downsizing follows Paul and Audrey who seek to leave their boring, stuck in a rut, lives behind to embark on a new and exciting journey in Leisure Land!  But suddenly, Audrey decides this is not for her and Paul must now figure out how to navigate this strange new world on his own. At first glance, the prospect of Downsizing really appealed to me, so much so that if the technology was real, I felt like I would sign up right away.  So, the movie started I wanted to know if I would still feel the same when the movie ended.  I feel like this is a question so many of us have asked ourselves: If there was a way to leave it all behind and enjoy a happy new life, would we do it?

 

As we follow Paul, wonderfully played by Matt Damon, we are faced with the age old warning that things are not always as they seem.  At first, he is told that his small savings from the big world would equate to Millions in the small world, but when an unexpected life change alters the plan his dream of fortune is put in jeopardy. This sad scenario is really very laughable!  I sat there realizing that no matter where you go, whether you are big or small, one thing you always have with you is yourself!  You can’t escape who you are and the idea that we can magically escape “real life” is too good to be true, if we are very honest with ourselves.  Strike 1 against downsizing…

 

Paul’s life continues in this monotonous loop that I think many of us suffer: wake up, go to work, eat dinner, go to bed, do it all over again.  But then one day he meets Ngoc Lan Tran, who is play by an amazing actress, Hong Chau (who should win some sort of an award for her performance). This begins to unravel, in the viewers mind, the ideal picturesque world of ‘Leisure Land’.  The big picture begins to unfold that perhaps not everyone is here of their own free will.  When you are made small you are attended by a team of nurses and staff; but if you think about it more deeply you realize: If I’m living in an upscale community then there have to be caretakers, gardeners, house cleaners, food servers in restaurants, etc.  Life continues as normal so all people with all levels of income are in this new world. 

 

The movie really forces you to think about the big divide we currently have between the rich and poor.  But it makes you think about what would happen if the middle class suddenly become rich, but you still have the poor who remain poor!  Now there is an even greater divide between the two and this is definitely addressed in the movie.  We see that the projects, or city slums still exist.  The very poor still exist.  The very ill and disabled still exist but now they all exist in a community where there is no longer government aid or assistance in existence for them. Ultimately, Paul must face the choices he made and I also had to revisit my initial question: would I still downsize myself?  I think in the end, I probably would still do it.  I would have a little bit more money, which may make things a bit easier.  But I understand now that no matter where you go, life continues on the same way it always does; and I think I’m okay with that.

 

What I thought was going to be a movie just about Paul trying to find his way, actually ends up being an important social commentary about ourselves, the rich and poor, racial divides, and what it means to be part of this human race.  We hit some amazingly hard topics but it’s done in a fun way and I was surprised at the amount of humor in the movie.  There were so many laugh out loud moments which I think were definitely necessary as we were dealing with some heavy topics.  I think most people will find this movie extremely enjoyable and enlightening.

In addition to the film this release includes numerous featurettes that take you further behind bringing this unique film to life. Make the decision to go small and grab your copy of Downsizing when it hits 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD on March 20th from Paramount Home Entertainment.

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