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DOWNSIZING (Alexander Payne, 2017) (Read 821 times)
Jan 4th, 2018 at 3:20pm

L.A. Connection   Offline
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Alexander Payne is one of the last Directors in Hollywood you might associate with a Sci-Fi parable. Payne, in movies like SIDEWAYS, THE DESCENDANTS and NEBRASKA usually takes an often acrid eye at human foibles. Here, again working with his usual collaborator Jim Taylor, Payne has fashioned an odd tale of scientists shrinking humans to the size of a mouse in order to preserve natural resources, and hence, Save The Planet. The mini-humans live in their own communities that often resemble amusement parks. It's an oddball vision that plays like THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN meets THE TRUMAN SHOW. It should have been satiric fun, but comes off a misfire on screen (if only it were as amusing as the well-produced trailer).

Matt Damon is Paul, a common man, who decides to undergo the process because he's frustrated with his life as full-sized individual. Damon is a solid actor, but, he's never been known for his charisma. Here, he makes the mistake of trying to "act" like an average Joe, which deadens the first half of the movie. In effect, Damon downsizes his own performance. Fortunately, things perk up a bit with the introduction of Christoph Waltz as a shady mini-person entrepreneur. Waltz brings his usual out-sized personality to liven things up. His sidekick is played by the great Udo Keir. Unfortunately, the script gives Keir virtually nothing to do. This leads to Damon's character meeting up with an Asian political dissident (Hong Chau), who was shrunk as a form of punishment by her government. Chau has been criticized for her use of a very stereotypical 'Asian voice'. It takes time to get used to, but Chau's performance is vital and one eventually gets over any qualms about it.

The Production Design, Special Effects and Photography all are fine, as are the performances (Damon gets stronger as the movie progresses as well). Fundamentally, however, Payne and Taylor never quite deliver on their set-up during the overlong picture (135 minutes). Adding in an apocalyptic disaster scenario in the last act doesn't really pay off, either. There are sporadic moments of wit and pathos, particularly with Chau, but it isn't enough. Sure, Save The Planet is a worthy goal, but, DOWNSIZING needed to be much more focused and convincing.
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