In 2019, I finally got round to watching Alexander Payne‘s painfully funny and entertaining 1999 high school drama, Election. Yep, I was 20 years too late to that party.
After watching Downsizing, I was surprised to hear that Payne also directed this one.
Election and Downsizing are not alike in any way other than that they both fall under a similar dramedy-style category. Of course, the camera quality had improved by the time it got to his 2017 release, and the visual effects are an impressive achievement here, but that’s just about where my praise for it ends.
The premise of Downsizing is actually a brilliantly original concept. Unfortunately, Payne doesn’t handle its complexity well enough. The first thirty minutes of the movie are effortlessly gripping and visually stunning. Within it’s opening half hour, there is a sequence in which Matt Damon‘s character undergoes his “transformation”, and it is a symphony of bright, white lights, and effortless choreography.
After that, it gets boring.
This movie is way, way too long, and that’s basically what it comes down to. 135 minutes is too long a run time for something that needs to be concise and to the point for it to maintain interest. Thankfully, the character played by Kristen Wiig doesn’t last and they replace their token female character with their token Asian female character before long. Watchmen‘s Hong Chau plays a frank, hilarious, kind-hearted woman who is just trying to do the right thing after she was caught trying to illegally cross US borders. If it weren’t for her, the entire second half of the movie would have been yawn-inducing were I not to love Christoph Waltz as much as I do.
What this movie needed after it started to fizzle out was an injection of weirdness. It goes rapidly from being exciting and unique to being obvious (plot-wise) and average.
As a result, Downsizing falls victim to becoming one of those movies that has such potential to be excellent but ends up being just okay.
At least the cinematography was above average, I guess. But that’s not enough pizzazz to warrant a TQR recommendation, is it?
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