During a financially difficult time in their lives Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wigg) decide to go in for a new procedure in which they are shrunk down to join a community of people 1/16 their original size.
Alexander Payne’s filmography boasts of Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska. His experience with characters looking for something in their lives is solid, so it’s a shame to see such an amazing concept fall short.
Matt Damon stars with his on-screen wife Kristen Wigg, they play Paul and Audrey Safranek, whose last name becomes a tired running gag when others are trying to pronounce it. After seeing a report about downsizing on TV and meeting a couple who had the procedure at their high school reunion they decide to do a little research. They are told their money would be worth a considerable amount more (their $152,000 converts into a whopping $12m) and due to their recent financial troubles, they both opt to go ahead with it, knowing full well that it’s irreversible.
The script, co-written with Payne’s regular partner Jim Taylor, is smart as it doesn’t take the easy route of making short jokes, if anything their choice of lifestyle is a cause of friction with problems including their right to vote and the amount of taxes they pay. The writing pair have come up with real world problems which could happen if life ever imitated art. Whilst there is very little waste and they don’t take up much room there are still issues such as it becoming easier to smuggle people from country and country whether for political purposes or to harm others. It gives it a genuine feel which the rest of the film mostly fails to do.
It’s supporting cast is made up of Jason Sudekis, the high school friend who is instrumental in convincing the Safraneks that this was the best thing they’ve done, Christoph Waltz, the charmingly smug and entertaining upstairs neighbour Dusan Mirkovic who is constantly holding parties and trying to convince Paul not to be so boring, and his cleaner Ngoc Lan Tran who slowly becomes the crux of the story. She comes from Vietnam and her unfortunate accent is entirely put on by actress Hong Chau. When imitating a real accent there should be a level of caution taken however she becomes the source of “comedy relief”. It comes across as though they are mimicking their culture which felt like a real low point.
There are constant reminders that these people are small, including a full sized dollar bill hung on a wall and a flower which is literally carried around so you don’t forget. It’s this sort of technique which proves that, whilst the concept is smart and original, this is just another film about lost people connecting in an unlikely place. It’s fine but loses credit in the by reminding you what these people are.
With an idea as original as this (admittedly others have been shrunk in movies before but it’s ordinarily against their will) and some good performances, it’s a shame it feels the need to remind you what it’s about. As it reaches it’s anti-climactic end, you can’t help but feel short changed
3 out of 5.
Keep. It. Reel.