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Downsizing

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This science-fiction-flavored satire from Alexander Payne (Election, The Descendants) is perhaps more ambitious than successful, but I haven’t lately seen too many films I’ve thought about longer. Matt Damon plays a regular Joe named Paul, a Midwestern occupational therapist with money troubles who embraces our near future’s solution to both overpopulation and the cost of living: He gets shrunk to 5 inches tall and decamps to LeisureLand, a planned community for the small. The fizzy set-up is full of sight gags, inventive takedowns of consumerism, and implicit but pointed questions about what we value and why. The plot turns abruptly on the arrival of Ngoc Lan (Hong Chau), a similarly shrunken Vietnamese refugee, and Paul’s discovery that even LeisureLand has an immigrant underclass. Another sudden plot twist gives the film an unexpected (but not unwarranted) pre-apocalyptic feel. But Payne and co-writer Jim Taylor maintain their sense of humor, even if the film ultimately feels less like satire and more like a poignant brief for humanism.


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