Size mat­ters for ill-suited Da­mon

Dumfries & Galloway Standard - - THE TICKET - Down­siz­ing (15)

How would you like to be five-inches tall and live in a com­mu­nity that could fit into a shoe­box?

That is the fas­ci­nat­ing cen­tral idea at the heart of Alexan­der Payne’s sci-fi dram­edy, with cou­ple Paul (Matt Da­mon) and Au­drey (Kris­ten Wiig) Safranek fac­ing the choice of per­ma­nently shrink­ing to en­joy a life of lux­ury.

Payne re-teams with his Side­ways and Elec­tion writer Jim Tay­lor on a clever script that makes Down­siz­ing un­like any other movie you’ve ever seen.

It’s bristling with so­cial satire as what could have been a gim­mick-only, height-joke-led watch is in­stead packed with over­ar­ch­ing themes like over­pop­u­la­tion and its im­pact on the en­vi­ron­ment.

There are sizeist barbs too with peo­ple told to “get small” and oth­ers pro­claim­ing them­selves “nor­mal sized-peo­ple” and even in a new smaller world the elite and poor are separated.

Still, life for Paul in the plush Leisure­land is far from idyl­lic as he has to put up with loud play­boy neigh­bour Du­san (a grand­stand­ing Christoph Waltz) who keeps re­fer­ring to him­self in the third per­son.

The visu­als and Ste­fa­nia Cella’s (Black Mass) pro­duc­tion de­sign are top notch and bring this un­usual re­al­ity to eye-catch­ing life as groups choos­ing to un­dergo the down­siz­ing pro­ce­dure end up look­ing like the world’s most re­al­is­tic Sub­bu­teo sets.

But de­spite ev­ery­thing Payne’s lat­est has go­ing for it, we are a long way off the bril­liance of Side­ways as it never quite fully clicks.

Most at­tempts at hu­mour fall flat, par­tic­u­larly the tire­some mis­pro­nun­ci­a­tion of Paul and Au­drey’s sur­name and Hong Chau’s Viet­namese po­lit­i­cal ac­tivist Ngoc Lan Tran’s ca­sual use of the words “death” and “dead”.

Chau her­self flips be­tween grat­ing and touch­ing in a wildly in­con­sis­tent per­for­mance; but at least she has a bit of fun with the premise.

Every­one else – apart from Waltz – looks down­trod­den through­out and it’s very odd to see Da­mon play­ing a frumpy, slightly over­weight every­man who never seems to find hap­pi­ness.

It’s as if he’s try­ing to play a younger ver­sion of Jack Ni­chol­son’s char­ac­ter in Payne’s About Sch­midt and it doesn’t re­ally work – or suit Da­mon’s act­ing style.

He is given a thor­ough vis­ual roast­ing, though, in a stand­out se­quence where he is shorn of all of his body hair in prepa­ra­tion for his down­siz­ing; and the fact the pro­ce­dure is ir­re­versible re­sults in thought-pro­vok­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing and ques­tion­able moral­ity.

The un­even na­ture of the film is per­haps best summed up by its book­ends; an ex­po­si­tion­heavy but tan­ta­lis­ing open­ing and a cli­max that veers off in an un­ex­pected-but-jar­ring di­rec­tion.

Down­siz­ing may strug­gle to make the most of its hugely in­trigu­ing ini­tial con­cept, then, but there are more highs than lows in what is one gi­ant step for cin­e­matic orig­i­nal­ity.

Gi­ant step Da­mon and Wiig weigh up the shrink­ing pro­ce­dure

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