Day one of the 74th Venice Film Festival has arrived and with it comes the premiere of Alexander Payne’s new movie, Downsizing, an all-star affair with Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz and Kristen Wiig topping the bill.
Downsizing follows the mid-life crisis of the Safranek family. Paul (Damon) and Audrey (Wiig) are struggling to make ends meet, in a bit of a rut and need a way to reinvigorate their lives. Over in Norway, scientists have found a way to save the planet for future generations by ‘downsizing’ people, and this may be the perfect answer to Paul and Audrey’s woes.
Downsizing for the Safraneks means more money, potentially more happiness and, for want of a better word, downsizing their problems… or so Paul thinks. However, when Paul and Audrey agree to downsize and move to the “incredible Leisureland”, the duo find thinks aren’t quite so straightforward.
Paul Safranek is a down-on-his-luck occupational therapist, but Audrey yearns for the finer things in life. With the downsizing process, to become small means you become rich. Your assets stay the same, but as the products you buy in the ‘little world’ are 100th the size, so is the price – and you effectively become a millionaire overnight.
And so, we see how downsizing is turned into a marketing bonanza with what seems to be an iPhone-style launch party as the first 36 downsized people are revealed. Everyone in attendance is sold the environmental benefits, but the real hook for the process is how they’ll live like suburban royalty.
But, as Paul gets smaller, his problems grow bigger.
Downsizing is really a live-action fairy tale. It’s like The Borrowers meets The Island. It’s farfetched, yet the director makes it seem entirely plausible. Payne has fun with this film, with sequences like the downsizing process: you’re shaven completely, your fillings are removed and then you are placed in an air-locked room to be injected with the transformational juice. Once the procedure is complete, a giant spatula scoops you up onto a tiny bed. Fun, yet quite sinister.
Payne isn’t the only one having a blast though, and Christoph Waltz is a scene-stealer once again. Waltz plays Dusan, Paul’s neighbour in Leisureland. He throws audacious house parties, he’s obnoxious but ridiculously loveable. He’s brutally honest but you respect that. Waltz delivers his lines with an absolutely zing; he’s alluring, he’s comedic and he can make you laugh with a simple expression, bouncing off Matt Damon well, whose character is one of mild-manners.
Overall, it’s a solid opener to the festival. I expect love for this movie at the box office, especially because of the cast. Payne just doesn’t make bad films and with Downsizing he’s provided a sensitive crowd-pleaser.
Downsizing will be released in the US on 22 December 2017, with the UK release expected soon after.
Read more of Adam Ray Palmer’s reviews at Cineroom.co.uk