In 'Downsizing,' confounding expectations only goes so far

'Downsizing' stars Matt Damon as a man living in a world where scientists have come up with a way to shrink humans as a way to save the planet from overconsumption.

The premise of “Downsizing,” starring Matt Damon, is promising: In the near future, scientists have come up with a way to shrink humans down to five inches as a way to save the planet from overconsumption. If you’re small, you get to live like kings and queens in a little-people community called Leisure Land because your money will go exponentially further.

Alexander Payne, who directed as well as co-wrote the script with Jim Taylor, has made some marvelous movies, including “Sideways” and “The Descendants.” For its first half hour or so, I thought “Downsizing” was going to be marvelous, too. But once Damon’s Paul, an occupational therapist, decides to take the plunge and get small, the film gradually loses its satiric bearings and morphs into an eco-apocalyptic fantasia in which Paul, aided by a feisty Vietnamese rebel, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), exposes the iniquities of their brave new world.

Payne doesn’t make that many movies, presumably by choice. Could it be that, not knowing when he might direct again, he decided to make a mashup of his many different movie ideas? “Downsizing” never quite goes where you think it’s going, and normally, I’d say that’s a plus. But confounding expectations only goes so far. You still have to get to a place worth getting to. Grade: C (Rated R for language including sexual references, some graphic nudity, and drug use.) 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to In 'Downsizing,' confounding expectations only goes so far
Read this article in
https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Movies/2017/1222/In-Downsizing-confounding-expectations-only-goes-so-far
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today
https://www.csmonitor.com/subscribe