Downsizing Screen 12 articles



Downsizing Poster
  • Payne's defenders might call his often acidic touch Swiftian, though it comes off more toothlessly noncommittal... [The characters are] no longer the heightened symbols of humanity that Payne intends (which would make the satire land with much more force) but half-assed cartoon constructs defined purely by their reductive surface traits. Perhaps Payne's aesthetic approach—to life, the universe, and everything—really is that simple-minded. It's certainly painful to watch him think.

  • It’s to Payne and Taylor’s credit that Downsizing doesn’t devolve into a knock-down, drag-out class-war comedy. The gradually coalescing friendship among Dusan, Ngoc, and Paul — who is suspicious and envious of one and guiltily desirous of the other — is gracefully acted and realized across the board. What’s less convincing is the way that Paul’s desire to help the self-reliant Ngoc on her house-cleaning and humanitarian rounds mutates into something perilously close to a white-savior narrative.

  • Payne’s earlier films were (ironically enough) smaller, less ambitious affairs that asked us to spend time with the individuals left behind by modernization or the accelerated international economy. . . . But Downsizing is practically an argument against itself. It exhibits all the trappings of a visionary work of cinema, but has no real vision, not of itself and not of the future it purports to critique.

  • It starts with an intriguing "What if?...", the launch-pad of all good sci-fi stories, and very quickly devolves into a bland story about a nondescript khaki-wearing guy who learns to care about the less-fortunate. It's the least-interesting way to go with what is a pretty interesting premise.

  • Alexander Payne’s new movie, “Downsizing,” is three movies in one—a passable one, a terrific one, and a terrible one. They’re unified in the realization of the movie’s big idea, but the movie’s straining after a big idea is its overarching weakness. . . . For all its scintillating cleverness, it yields to a self-satisfied moralism to set up a final, painless twist that fuses virtue and pleasure, public good and private happiness.

  • The ride is not only peppered with moments of inspired humor, it’s also peopled by characters who are expressly, unapologetically likeable, so that by its unexpectedly chipper ending, it’s been an enjoyable, broadly accessible and wonkily heartfelt good-time-at-the-movies. It’s about humanity gaining the power to shrink to one-twelfth of its size, but it’s Payne’s most expansive film by roughly the same proportion, inverted.

  • A sharp and heartfelt satire on consumerism and ecology... The situation takes several unpredictable turns and in the face of impending disaster veers into a Capraesque optimism. Yet there’s a somberness here too, perhaps most akin to that in About Schmidt. Alexander mentioned Chekhov as an influence, and he admired the writer for realizing that emotional effects stand out against “a cold background.”

  • The film works best when Payne exposes the egotism and self-righteousness of the small-world denizens; where it stalls a little is when the critique threatens to turn the whole feature into a moral parable... Paul’s Fantastic Voyage may seems miles away from Payne’s previous efforts, but Downsizing regards its characters and their alienation with the same compassionate eye as its predecessors—and its chuckles leave the same lasting, slightly bitter aftertaste.

  • Its tone is radically different from anything Payne has done previously: He’s more playful than usual, but also more thoughtful and somber. With Downsizing, he’s stretching toward something, instead of further contracting into the world he knows best. The movie is a surprise, the good kind, an instance of a filmmaker zigging just when you’re expecting him to zag.

  • It's an enormous movie—enormous in its ambition, and enormous in its ingenuity. As such, it is distinctly out of step with the times. Monumentality is acceptable in the action blockbuster, but when it comes to anything else, the small and the subtle and the half-toned are the markers of refined taste. . . . At a moment that celebrates unimpeachably “nice” filmmakers, Payne continues to be less concerned with trumpeting his virtues than with pressing viewers to question their own.

  • Although not everything about Downsizing is perfect, it proves Payne’s strengths as a visual storyteller and his commitment to social realities. . . . Without ever descending into didacticism or deploying pinko terminology like “bourgeoisie,” Downsizing offers some pretty brave critiques of how and whom capitalism keeps failing, regardless of size.

  • The audacity of Alexander Payne’s new film lies in its willingness to ditch its high-concept premise and move on – and then do it again. As might be inferred from the title, Downsizingtakes place in a world where people choose to be shrunk for reasons of economy, more or less, but Payne is wise enough not to get caught up in the thickets of practical what-ifs and what-abouts, and his film has the rare quality of purposeful unpredictability.

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