2017 TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL: Alexander Payne’s long-awaited film, “Downsizing,” has premiered to mixed reactions at Venice, and has now done the same here in Telluride. Co-written alongside Jim Taylor, with whom co-wrote “Sideways,” “About Schmidt,” and “Election” with Payne, “Downsizing” stars Matt Damon as Paul Safranek, a humble occupational therapist looking to make a difference in the world.
In Payne’s alternate world, a Scandinavian scientist (played by “A Man Called Ove’s” Rolf Lassgard) has successfully developed a way to shrink mankind to the size of about five inches. His hope is to remedy humanity’s greatest problem: over-population (and the subsequent damage we are causing to the environment). The idea is the smaller we are, the less waste, pollution, and food we need to sustain. The medical procedure – commonly known as downsizing – is irreversible, and therefore leads to the difficult choice Safranek must make as he tries to do the right thing. The arduous decision is only followed by additional challenges that come with being five inches tall. Once Safranek decides to “get small,” he encounters a variety of eccentric and unconventional characters, including his neighbor Dusan (Christoph Waltz), and a Vietnamese dissident Gong Jiang (Hong Chau).
“Downsizing” is at times a laugh-out-loud satire, and at others a poignant romantic comedy. The problem the film faces is somewhere in the middle when it decides to go astray of its clever and outlandish disposition in favor of some overly heavy message-sending.
The film is enjoyable, for the most part, with Hong Chau stealing just about every scene she touches. In a world where political correctness is greatly overblown, there will certainly be those that take offense to the stereotypical cadence she delivers in the film, as several critics in the audience were quick to recognize. People should still see the film, and Chau’s performance, for what it is: a ridiculous and unconventional satire with a whole lot of heart.