Downsizing (Movie Review)

Being able to stream movies is a blessing; the ability to catch up on films missed, rewatch old classics, or discover new stories is always an exciting part of modern movie watching…in theory. In 2017, one of the holiday movie releases that I was most anticipated was a film called Downsizing from director Alexander Payne (The Descendants, Nebraska, Sideways, About Schmidt) and starring a stellar cast including Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Kristin Wigg, Jason Sudeikis, et cetera. What’s not to be excited about? On top of that, it’s an original sci-fi movie that takes place in a modern world and looks at our lives through a sci-fi lens; critiquing us and our lives is the pinnacle of great, classic sci-fi and to see another movie do that and appeal to a wide audience is something that makes me genuinely happy.

And then the movie comes out.

Not only does it not do too well at the box office (at all), but the reaction it garners from critics and audiences alike was disappointing to say the least. Of course, being the naïve millennial that I am, I think that in order to enjoy this movie to it’s fullest potential, I should wait until the hoopla dies down and I may watch it with a clean slate. So, that’s exactly what I do.

I wait.

Now, it’s free to watch with a Hulu subscription (which I have because Community is a show that exists) and I was excited to see it pop up on my home screen. Over the last three nights, I finally watched it for myself. What did I think?

Yeah, “mixed reviews” sound about right.

During the first, say, 30 minutes I found myself enjoying it quite a bit. I think the premise is truly great and reminds me of some of Jim Carrey’s best films of the late-90’s and early-2000’s. With a script as unique as this, undeniable talent in front of and behind the camera, and an audience that’s clamoring for a great tale that this film promised, what went wrong? Well, it was the marketing that ruined this film. Even after waiting over a year to watch it for myself, I still feel as though this film has been grossly mismarketed in every way. Granted, I’m not sure how I would market this either (at least not honestly), but that doesn’t change the fact that what people wanted and what people got were dreadfully different.

While I sound quite negative in my perspective of the film, know that it is not the film itself that I have such disdain for, but the way this film was sold to audiences. If you remember the trailers, and I urge you not to, you’ll remember that this was sold as an Oscar-bait drama/comedy about life itself, and how best to appreciate it. It seemed like it was going to be a movie about enjoying the small aspects of life, paying attention to the little things, not judging a book by its cover and all of that cliched, usual stuff. What was this movie actually about? Well…enjoying the small aspects of life, paying attention to the little things, and not judging a book by its cover. But also, the end of the world? If Jim Carrey was in a movie that’s like Honey I Shrunk the Kids meets Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, I’d see that in a heartbeat. It would be unique, entertaining, and heartfelt.

This did not end up being that movie. It’s not Matt Damon’s fault, but the character we follow for the 135-minute runtime makes the film feel so much longer than it actually is. We don’t follow him because we enjoy being with him, we follow him because we pity him and, like the movie says at least three times, he’s pathetic. This movie is about his personal growth from being an everyday “no man,” to more of a free-willed “yes man.” Again, Jim Carrey would have made this movie simply marvelous. Instead of being about the celebration of life, it’s about how Paul becomes less pathetic. Still, the whole “nothing ever goes right for this guy” continues all the way until the credits, so did his new-found outlook on life really make a difference? I don’t think so.

I love a good character study, and I love a good movie about accepting the broad, uncontrollable aspects of life…but this film is neither, and it feels like it becomes something completely different. It’s about a very non-special man who undergoes a procedure that 3% of the entire Earth’s population goes through, who we pity throughout, and who weaves in and out of other people’s lives so much so that you never really know which characters are going to still be in the movie after another 10 minutes, and then who encounters the possible end of the human race. By the end of the film, we have such a rag-tag group of misfits that I felt as though I was watching something completely different than what I started three years ago (or however long this movie was).

However, I actually quite liked the movie. I did not find it boring, bad, or in any way unbearable. Granted, it was a good 135-minute movie when it could have been a bloody fantastic 90-minute movie but the film we got is what it is: a unique sci-fi movie that was embarrassingly mismarketed. If I had to market this film, I’d say that it’s a slow-burn dramedy (not pure comedy) that is more reminiscent of a Steven Spielberg drama (like The Terminal, not any of his really good ones), and is more of a stitched-together quilt of great ideas that in the end makes sort of an uncomfortable blanket that you’ll most likely never choose to spend time with. Do I regret watching it? Absolutely not. Will I remember much about it in a few weeks? I doubt it. Would I watch it again? I’m not so sure.

But, it’s free with a Hulu subscription so there’s really not much to lose aside from 135 minutes of time. Your choice.

Anyways, I think I’m going to end this review here. If you liked this, check out some of my other stuff (or wait until the end of the weekend to see about 4-5 more reviews on here. Including new films such as Captive State and Triple Frontier!) As always, I thank you for reading and I’ll see you soon!

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Published by Blake Carson Schwarz

Indiana University graduate in Media and Creative Writing. I love to write my own stories as well as experience the work of others. On this site, I post reviews, essays, and other fun posts that I hope you have as much fun reading and I have writing. Please share any comments you have, I'd be happy to hear what you think! *Never a critic, always a fan*

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