Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) is a good man with kind intentions and ability, but he simply can’t reach his potential. One could say the same thing about Alexander Payne’s movie that houses Paul’s story, Downsizing.
Paul has the makings to be a doctor, but he settled on being a safety expert in a meat factory. He pushed aside his dreams in order to take care of his mother, and kept them stored permanently in order to provide for his wife (Kristen Wiig). Now, his wife wants a bigger home, and when the new wave of technology includes shrinking yourself to live in a controlled environment like a rich person, Paul takes the plunge. Let’s just say things don’t work out for Paul initially, but he keeps trying to make things right.
Downsizing suffers from a strong opening that simply doesn’t know how to progress. Payne’s ambitious premise is set up quite well in the invigorating first half of this film, showing us Paul’s sad state and the brave new world he is entering. When he lands in Leisureland and sees old friends like Dave Johnson (Jason Sudekis playing to his usual baffoon strengths) while meeting new ones like Dusan (Christoph Waltz, who gives the film much needed life), Paul is still an unhappy lug.
This tactic has worked well for Payne in the past, showing us a painfully unhappy man and turning him inside out, for better or worse. Downsizing is the third film in Payne’s “Sad Existential Man” series, following Election and Sideways. Unlike Matthew Broderick’ and Paul Giamatti’s characters, Paul just isn’t that interesting to care about what happens to him. Continue reading “‘Downsizing’ collapses when it gets preachy”