The latest from Alexander Payne (Election, About Schmidt, Sideways), starring Matt Damon, is a brave concept, but several of the ingredients don’t quite gel.
Set further along on the climate-change train-wreck we’re inflicting on the planet, the latest solution is to “downsize”, or shrink to a fraction of regular human size, and move into a protected colony of tiny people.
Everything is cheaper in the tiny world, and many of those who choose to “go small” are made instant millionaires by the change. McMansions abound.
But, of course, the concept has its issues, including the rights of the tiny people and whether the world will actually change.
I expected more bizarre moments where big world meets small. But only one such contrast stands out, when Damon’s character Paul carries a regular-sized rose to a party.
Downsizing doesn’t change the day-to-day lives of those who take part. Cubicle desk jobs still exist, rampant consumerism still exists, poverty next to outrageous wealth still exists. Tiny doesn’t spell virtue.
The first third of this movie develops the concept well, but then a switch is flipped, and momentum is lost.
The biggest problem is the flip-flop between genres. One moment, we watch a kitchen spatula being used as a stretcher; then, suddenly, we’re getting a heavy lesson on the perils of climate change.
The change is so stark, it feels uncomfortable, almost as though the director discovered during shooting that climate change is really, truly, real, and decided to make the movie about that.
I thoroughly enjoyed the character Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese stowaway and activist who has had a leg amputated. Played by Hong Chau, an American actor of Vietnamese descent, this character is the film’s strongest. It’s refreshing to see a positive portrayal of Asian culture through a strong female role.
Beside her, Matt Damon’s Paul is a bore. Friends I spoke can’t decide whether that’s intentional or not, which says a lot.
An interesting idea, executed haphazardly. FT
Three stars out of five
Madeleine Fountain is a classics and media student at the University of Otago, Fiona Thomas is a journalist at New Zealand Doctor