Belfast Telegraph

Downsizing: Miniature marvel comes up short

 

By Damon Smith

Small is beautiful - and highly desirable - in this quirky comedy drama set in the near future, when socially-conscious citizens in our overcrowded world undergo cellular reduction to shrink their bodies.

Wit and invention are in thrilling abundance in an assured opening 30 minutes, with slick digital effects that juxtapose the everyday and shrunken worlds.

Unfortunately, the script's volatile cocktail of genres - dystopian social satire, humane drama, doomed romance - congeals before the film has concluded its laboured second hour.

A team of Norwegian scientists dazzle the world with their downsizing experiment, which impresses occupational therapist Paul Safranek (Matt Damon).

At a high school reunion, Paul and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) meet miniaturised former classmates, who are effusive about their decision to shrink.

But Audrey gets cold feet and Paul becomes a lonely bachelor in the tiny community of Leisureland. One year later, the Safraneks are divorced and Paul trades Leisureland luxury for a single bedroom apartment in the same block as brash playboy Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz).

The straight-talking hedonist introduces Paul to Vietnamese cleaner Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), who opens Paul's eyes to the cruelty in his brave new miniaturised world.

Ironically, Downsizing comes up short. An ingenious central conceit can't stretch to 135 minutes and the emotional pay-off is unsatisfying.

Two-time Oscar winner Waltz furiously chews scenery as an ageing, foul-mouthed lothario, while Thai-born actress Chau could snag her first Oscar nomination for her eye-catching portrayal of an outspoken dissident, who was downsized against her will.

Three stars

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