Downsizing posits what would happen if scientists took a drastic step to conserve the Earth’s resources. Matt Damon stars as Paul Safranek, a regular guy living a near-future version of the American Midwest with his wife, Audrey (Kristen Wiig), and struggling to pay the bills. To maximize their finances, the Safraneks decide to shrink themselves to five inches tall. Paul’s life in the lap of Lilliputian luxury sours once he finds out his wife has changed her mind and will not be downsizing, and subsequently divorces him.
Paramount’s film tackles heavy themes: economic disparity, political and racial inequality, and what has attracted attention from the EMA board—environmental sustainability.
“You know how Hollywood doesn’t make original movies anymore?” asks Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. “Well, Downsizing is here to fix that.”
The movie indeed presents as a highly original concept: an everyone-wins-the-lotto fantasia, a hypothetical near-future where every middle-class worker drone with fifty thousand in the bank can shrink themselves and relocate to a miniaturized consumerist paradise where everything is cheap and easy. And the shrunken crowds, with their shrunken environmental footprint, get to save the world in the process.
That’s what gets our attention, but what keeps it is a vividly accurate parable on class struggle and the inherent unfairness of global imbalances in rights and status. This turn happens when hero Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) – left behind by his wife (Kristen Wiig), discontented with his new world’s opulence – stumbles into a miniature tenement outside the walls of diminutive mansion-dotted Leisureland and discovers an underclass of refugees who have been downsized against their will.
Galvanized, Safranek sets off to find the meaning that financially amping up his lifestyle could not deliver. Cue the critics:
“Downsizing … is the rarest thing in today’s movie industry: a big movie for big people — adults, you could call them,” writes Jake Coyle in the The Associated Press.
He’s not the only one who was impressed. Here are some highlights:
Director Alexander Payne continues his record of excellence
“It’s hard to say what’s better about the first half of Alexander Payne’s wonderfully weird – or is it weirdly wonderful? – Downsizing: the audacity of its premise, or the delicious skill with which Payne executes that premise, detail by comically ingenious detail,” Jocelyn Noveck writes for The Associated Press.
Payne has directed six previous feature films, including Paramount’s Academy Award-nominated Election and Nebraska, as well as the Academy Award-winning Sideways and The Descendants (both won for Best Adapted Screenplay).
Matt Damon and Director Alexander Payne on the set of Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
“Alexander Payne is one of those rare filmmakers who’s never made a bad movie, and he’s not about to start now,” writes Micah Mertes in the Omaha World-Herald. “…in its sense of place, in its existential dread, in its deadpan comedy and late-inning optimism, Downsizing is an on-brand continuation of a career still running strong more than two decades in.”
Supporting actress Hong Chau is remarkable
Chau, who plays a Vietnamese refugee shrunken against her will and forced to labor as a Leisureland maid after losing a leg to gangrene, delivers a Golden Globe-nominated performance as a supporting actress.
“Hong Chau, best known from Inherent Vice and HBO’s Treme, achieves nothing less than an acting triumph,” writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Her Best Supporting Actress nominations from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild are just the start of the honors coming her way.”
Hong Chau plays Ngoc Lan Tran and Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek in Downsizing from Paramount Pictures.
One thing that drew Chau to the role was a high-concept framework that acted as an approachable vector for important issues.
Downsizing doesn’t hit theaters until Dec. 22, but the Alexander Payne-directed fantasy about a resource-starved future, in which citizens shrink themselves to conserve resources, is already creating enough buzz to earn a Golden Globe nomination.
Hong Chau earned a spot on the list of contenders in the Best Supporting Actress category, becoming just the third person of East Asian decent to earn that distinction since 1970, according to EW.com.
“This is the type of character who’s always in the background,” Chau told EW about the significance of her prominent role in the film. “I hope filmmakers will go back and take a look at people whom they thought they couldn’t mine drama or entertainment from. There are a lot of characters that have been underdeveloped because people aren’t interested or are afraid of attempting to tell their stories.”
On the television side, Viacom scored an additional nomination, for the Paramount Television-produced Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. Katherine Langford, who plays the tragic Hannah Baker – a high-schooler driven to suicide by the behavior of her fellow students on the hit series – is a finalist in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama category.
Paramount Television, which is a division of the Paramount Pictures Hollywood film studio and is behind hits such as USA Networks’ Shooter and Epix’s Berlin Station, is an increasingly important part of Viacom’s business. On the company’s fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call on Nov. 16, Viacom CEO Bob Bakish noted that the studio had tripled revenues in just the last year alone and has an aggressive slate planned for 2018.
Seth Meyers will host the 2018 Golden Globes, which will air live on NBC at 8 p.m. ET on Jan. 7, 2018, broadcast from the International Ballroom of the Beverly Hilton.
A Manhattan striver who shaves 15 years off her age to advance her career, a raw look at the often shaky lives of teenage mothers, the greatest drag spectacle on television, and a what-if world where humankind shrinks itself to spare the planet’s resources – here’s a closer look at the properties that earned Viacom five nominations:
Best Actress in a Comedy Series – Sutton Foster, Younger– TV Land
The human population keeps growing. The world remains the same size, even while living standards – and the volume of resources needed to support them – continue to increase. What to do?
Shrink everyone. The food that would sustain one person can now feed many times more. These new micro-people can use smaller houses, cars, and clothes, requiring fewer raw materials to make them. With smaller items costing far less, even modest savings will allow them to live like millionaires.
This is the premise of Downsizing, a dazzlingly original movie from Paramount. When scientists in a vaguely near-distant future unveil an astonishing body-shrinking technology, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to join the land of the littles, where they can romp into an early and easy retirement.
Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne, is slated for a Dec. 22, 2017 release.