This movie looked something like a quaint, oddball little sci fi – and it was directed by Alexander Payne, who's made a lot of movies I enjoyed like Nebraska and Sideways. It had an interesting premise and the trailers looked fairly fun, so what could go wrong? Apparently, a lot. Pretty much everything in fact.
Director: Alexander Payne
Starring: Matt Damon, Hong Chau
It's about a future world where, to curb the effects of global warming and population overload, humanity finds a way to shrink themselves and drastically reduce their waste, carbon footprint, etc. Which sounds like an interesting concept. The only problem is that this is the kind of movie that doesn't know how to tell that story. Just a little qualm, ya know, a tiny problem.
We start off with a sort of quick rundown of how the technology and science behind the world existed – it was, uh, invented by scientists. Wow. I never would've guessed. Totally worth not just doing a text crawl or having a minute of exposition in the beginning, right? I love that they show the first families who underwent the procedure to become small, which is irreversible apparently. There's at least one family with small children. I feel like that's a form of child abuse – those kids didn't fucking get a say in that. You're just breeding the next generation of angry rebel kids listening to shitty punk and emo music here.
Then we get main character Matt Damon, who is a bland white guy who cares about the environment. There are some throwaway, kind of obvious scenes where he sees small people and kind of is in awe of it, I guess. There are a lot of time jumps – you see him with his mom for about a minute, then it jumps 10 years and he has a wife. Kind of awkward. You wouldn't lose much if you didn't have the scene with the mom. A bit poorly edited maybe.
It takes over an hour for them to get to the point where they're actually ready to shrink themselves. I'd say this was overkill and a poor use of time, but for me this was actually the interesting part of the film – watching them debate over it and really consider the ramifications is actually a bit dramatic and interesting; words I can't use to describe anything that happens later.
I'm serious – after this, it really does just kind of go off the rails. I was wondering if they were just making it up as they went along – there's not much of a coherent story. I could tell you plot points in conversation and you'd think I was kidding or that I was ad-libbing some shit. But no, everything I'm about to tell you really happens.
So, I guess you get a long scene of preparing Damon to be shrunk – you get to see them strip him naked, take out his teeth and put a douche up his ass, which I guess was a fetish of his. Hey, we're all into something.
Then it turns out his wife doesn't end up going through with it – the character isn't written well enough for this to be totally believable, and it mostly just makes her look like a terrible person for no reason. We never really see her again, so it'd almost have been better if he never had a wife. What a clusterfuck...
Then, no joke, you get close to another hour of boring scenes of him just living as a tiny person. It's infuriating to me that he gets a job at a call center. The whole first half of the movie, he had said he wanted to be this great surgeon, and he worked in a medical position in the “big” world. And there's a plot point that money you had originally is exponentially multiplied when you shrink – so Damon's character is essentially a multimillionaire. All that money and all that time he spent bitching about wanting to be a doctor – and he works at a fucking call center when he shrinks? You have got to be kidding me. That was almost enough for me to walk out of the theater right there.
But it keeps going. For some reason, they decide to introduce a plot point about a Vietnamese woman activist who was apparently shrunk as punishment in prison. Now she lives in the same place Damon does, and the two strike up an unlikely friendship. She lost her foot due to a disease, I guess, and Damon, being a complete idiot, accidentally breaks it. So now HE has to work as a maid and clean houses to make up for her incapacitation! Oh the hijinks! Did I mention the comedy in this is bad? It's kind of like if your uncle's jokes at holiday dinners mutated in a lab and came to life.
This character also speaks in a goofy, exaggerated way that comes off like how a low-brow 60s comedy would have played an Asian character. The actress, Hong Chau, does an admirable job anyway, but it's funny to me that a film this much about saving the planet and being progressive in that way doesn't care about being racist.
Then for whatever reason, they end up all going to Norway – is this sounding like a terrible improv yet? Honestly, at this point I was so bored and annoyed with this movie, the only way it could have improved for me was a mass killing spree of most of the characters. Just utter carnage. A bloodbath, with most of these characters knifed to death right before they had the best day of their lives and they knew it. That's what would have made this movie better.
… which made it all the stranger when, in Norway, we find out that the guy who invented the 'downsizing' process is now certain that the world is ending. He and his wife say that. The world ending is now part of the plot of this movie about a shrinking Matt Damon. I can't even properly convey how insane all this is.
So, if for some reason you're not drunk into a coma at this point of the film, I guess the plot NOW is about a weird Amish-esque cult of people led by that founder guy, who have built a bunker to go live in while the world ends. I was really wishing this was actually a prequel to The Walking Dead. Wouldn't that be something? They come out of the bunker and then a zombie immediately eats all of them in one bite, like M&Ms.
But instead all we get is Damon, a spineless creature in the end, just joining this cult. He really has no personality or convictions of his own and just goes along with whatever is right in front of him like a dumb animal.
Fortunately, Damon decides against it at the last minute because he's in love with the Vietnamese lady, and also because he finds out it's going to be an 11 hour walk to the bunker these Norwegians built – honestly, the way the movie shows it, it's mostly because of the long walk.
Then, I guess, he just kind of goes back to the normal boring life he was already living. That's really how it ends – no other big revelations or twists or anything. What a wet fart of an ending...
This was just a bad movie. I really didn't know what to expect – it wasn't this, though. There were interesting parts in the first act, but ultimately the film didn't know what to do with its characters or story, and things went way off track as it kept going. Later on, you get non-sequitur plots apparently attempting to be socially relevant, and for that you need to actually be smarter to pull it off – this movie didn't hit the mark. All in all, they should've shrunk this down to a short film. Well, this has been fun. Bye!
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