Review / ‘Downsizing’ (M) *** and a half

WRITER Alexander Payne has confected a screenplay capable of wearing a number of valid generic labels. Drama. Message. Social critique. Horror. Fantasy. Sci-fi. Love story.

Director Alexander Payne has staged those elements with style and affection – qualities of which it needs plenty because its 135 minutes is not taking us anywhere comfortable.

Norwegian scientist Jergen (Rolf Lassgard) has perfected technology for miniaturising people and objects. In the next couple of decades, his methods get applied to reduce the scale of consumption of all manner of things that humans use or create – a bog-standard garbage bag holds four-years’ waste for 36 people.

Occupational therapist Paul (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) see miniaturising as the solution to their mortgage problems. They sign up and pay the entry fee. Paul goes first for the five-hour procedure. When he wakes, the news is bad. Audrey has changed her mind.

A decade later, Paul lives in a miniature community and has tried a relationship with a single parent. Not a success. Now there’s a noisy party in the apartment upstairs. When Paul goes to complain, host Dusan (Christoph Waltz) welcomes him into a world of hedonist luxury. When the party’s over, paid cleaners move in. Vietnamese Ngoc (Hong Chau) has lost her left foot. Paul offers to help with her mobility issues. The workers live in a starkly different environment.

Having introduced the significant characters and confronted us with what a thinking person may have begun to suspect since Paul got downsized, Payne then leads the film back to its origins where Jergen and his wife live in a community with a plan to save humanity by relocating little people to a place that the pitfalls of miniaturising can’t reach.

It’s a sobering film, offering a situation impossible to believe yet somehow rational. Scary, delivered in an agreeably entertaining package.

At Palace Electric, Dendy, Hoyts Belconnen

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