Downsizing shrinks its intriguing premise into a story of minuscule proportions. There's nothing more infuriating then observing a genius concept become mere waste. It's like staring at a light bulb as it flickers for two hours, waiting for its filament to burst. Downsizing offers so much promise. It grants the audience a new smaller perspective on life (literally!). However the disappointment rapidly kicked in as soon as our leading man undergone body reduction, to which the script must've been reduced with him. Overpopulation threatens humanity, and a new scientific breakthrough in shrinking fauna and flora has just surfaced, persuading an American couple to change their lives forever. Except, rather predictably, the wife decides to change her mind last minute. Oops!
There's a message hidden within these small societies. Humanity's environmental impact is destroying the planet. Overpopulation results in a rapid increase in climate change and pollution levels. So, theoretically, shrinking life on Earth would result in more space for everyone and less detrimental effects to the environment. Right? Well, that's what the first act brilliantly carved. Director Payne focuses the story on the building of this concept. The economical, societal, and environmental changes that would occur. Residential paradises being constructed to safely house "small" people. The arguments of having equality with "normal" sized people, such as paying taxes and the right to vote. There's a subtle commentary on racial divide, by using body anthropometrics instead, and the first act gently touched upon these themes that really the entire film needed to address.
Unfortunately, once Matt Damon becomes Mini Damon, Payne loses all control of direction. The proceeding hour and a half is an absolute shambles. Aimless, flat and bordering on boring. The intent focus on the concept is sidelined for a story about life reassessment. Seeking purpose, love and happiness. It unfortunately doesn't work. There's not enough substance in the meandering plot to keep audiences invested, as we observe raucous parties and house cleaning. The second act seemingly follows Paul follow an impoverished activist follow sick people follow death. The third act then randomly turns into a cult apocalyptic event that came out of literally nowhere. And that pretty much sums up the screenplay. It's purposefully unpredictable to the point that it itself becomes pointless, losing all vital substance from the first act. Attempting to maintain a light tone, Payne is unable to retain purpose, as if trying to appeal to mainstream audiences and awarding bodies simultaneously. Such a shame.
Miniature characters are tossed around as if they were in a suitcase at an airport. A talented cast including Waltz, Wiig, Sudeikis and even a cameo from Dern, were utterly nullified by a flat screenplay. Damon holds the film on his shoulders as much as he can, and Chau gave a decent performance despite her character almost being viewed as a caricature of Vietnamese culture. But it's not enough to bypass the flimsy story. Even the superimposing of miniature humans against the backdrop of the world from our perspective, which was surprisingly well executed if mostly noticeable, cannot overlook the snooze inducing last hour. I found myself slowly falling asleep to the lack of direction, and that's not like Payne considering his past directorial efforts.
Like I said, I despise fantastic concepts being wasted. I haven't felt this disappointed with an innovative societal-changing idea since 'In Time', and even then at least that film had a direction. This film will keep shrinking in my mind, to the point that it is purely unobservable and completely forgotten about. Shame.