If you’re not aware of Alexander Payne, let me introduce you to him. Firstly, despite how effin’ great his name would fit in in said industry, Alexander Payne is not a pro-wrestler.
He is, however, a two-time Oscar-winning director and screenwriter who has created some of the most iconic movies of today, including my favourites The Descendants and Nebraska. I actually prefer them to Sideways. And that film’s nearly perfect, so that tells you how bloody good he is.
Unfortunately, his latest directorial outing, Downsizing, doesn’t quite have the same subtle charm as his previous flicks.
Before I begin to rant, I just want to gloat. I’m not good at sport; I can’t sing and a girl once threw up in a bush after I winked at her, so allow me this just once. I saw Downsizing as part of BFI London Film Festival, and got to sit in the same cinema as one of my favourite directors and Christoph Waltz. That’s a different cinema experience to when I go alone, and buy two boxes of popcorn, just to say to passersby that my friend’s just popped to the loo.
Let’s face it – you can’t even watch In The Night Garden without Makka Pakka making some political satire to camera. (And just because I knew the characters behind In The Night Garden doesn’t make me a creep, and… SHUT UP.) So it comes as no surprise that Downsizing focuses on climate change and immigration, set in a not-so-distant future.
Norweigan scientists discovered their second best invention – since IKEA’s meatballs – a method for shrinking people, in an attempt to save the world, and decrease humanity’s footprint. Here, Matt Damon’s Paul downsizes alone, after his wife, Kristen Wiig bails.
For me, Downsizing falls short – pun so totally intended – because it seems Paramount Pictures handed Alexander Payne his biggest budget to date; and just like me six hours after pay-day, he blew it on totally unnecessary things. While Payne has worked with A-listers before; from George Clooney to Jack Nicholson, Downsizing featured a huge cast, which – not including the huge primary cast – boasts Neil Patrick Harris, Laura Dern and Jason Sudeikis in minor cameo roles.
Having spent so much money on bespoke props and a lot of special effects, the studio seemed to strive to reach a much wider audience, often relying on less-subtle, less-Payne humour. Don’t get me wrong; I once saw an elderly man fall into a pond trying to retrieve his golf ball (and thankfully, I recorded it on my phone, so I can watch it back at least six times an hour), but I expect a drier comedy from Alexander’s pictures. Christoph Waltz plays an over-the-top characterisation, albeit, greatly. While the moment Kristen Wiig appeared with her hair and one eyebrow shave off received a lot of laughs, it just didn’t seem much like his old movies.
While it didn’t mimic the likes of Nebraska, it was still an enjoyable film. While the opening act dragged, the fun begins as – needless to say – Matt Damon shrinks and becomes ‘small’. I felt just as much awe as Damon’s Paul did discovering the small world for the first time, but the movie lost its pace when he met an illegal immigrant (Hong Chau) who had some funny lines, but just became quite an obvious plot point.
Having initially started working on Downsizing between the makings of Sideways (2004) and The Descendants (2011), this movie has been a longtime in the making. It’s a pleasant watch, but what could have been an interesting, satirical piece about something unique, soon turned into a classic rom-com falling for the same tropes that would give Richard Curtis a hard-on.
Boy, do I feel like a schmuck for writing this. And even more of a schmuck for the typos. There, I said it so you don’t have to.
Downsizing is out on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital May 28.