Downsizing starts with a bad choice of premise which is that some Norwegian scientists work out (deliberately) how to shrink nearly all living organic matter to a tiny fraction of its current volume perfectly safely so that humans end up about 12 cm tall after the process as part of an environmental protection process. Personally I’m of the opinion this buys us time, not solves the problem - mini humans dedicated to green living as their test colony was still produced non-reducible, non-recyclable waste. Even if the whole human (and domestic and farm animal) population was shrunk, as a species we’d just expand to some stupendously high population, 10 trillion or 10 quadrillion or whatever it is, to overload the Earth again. It would buy time, not cure the problem. There are a LOT of issues with the actually biology and microbiology too once you even start to scratch the surface but don’t get me started on that.
The film has far, far more deep rooted problems than that. It has problems a lot of other movies would kill for - too many interesting ideas and not enough time to develop them. As well as the ecological ideas, there is an understandable political tension between those who downsize and those who don’t. We get about 2 minutes of this and while it might not make a whole movie, I’d have liked to see more. We get a really brief sketch of some of the abuses of the technology, which I would have loved to have seen more about. There is a little meditation on the idea that making such a titanic change in your living arrangements doesn’t actually change who you are. This floats by in the background, almost entirely without comment, and while I don’t know it would make a good movie in its own right I would like to have seen it explored more. The film shows us the American dream, and rather baldly suggests that the American dream relies on a ghettoised, probably foreign, poor working class. Vietnamese cleaners, Mexican plumbers and the like. It also suggests that America can’t survive without the criminals, people who smuggle in their Cuban cigars, Russian caviar and the like. It rather strongly, perhaps it would be better to say downright brutally, points out the difference between the way the haves and the have-nots live. In a film where the story is about environmentalism and downsizing to save the environment, I’d have liked to see that played up more: the American Green dream retaining conspicuous over-consumption and exploiting cheap illegal immigrant labour. But it’s not tied in to the story of the film, it is just shown as part of the Hero’s Journey.
There are simply too many ideas here, and many of them are good - I think I’ve forgotten a few to be honest. The script needed a serious edit, so it had the space to develop two or three of them well rather than cramming them all in and not developing any of them. In my opinion this would have given us a far better film, or even a group of films. Which is a shame because I could see that potential and wanted to see any of the far better films that were sitting there.
This is, sadly, a turkey and best avoided.
Bechdel test: I think this is a no. There are plenty of named female characters, but none of them really have a conversation except with a man: there’s always a man there and it’s a three-way chat.
Ko test: Pass. There is a Vietnamese woman as a major character who talks English through about half of the film, certainly far more than 5 scenes.
Koeze-Dottle test: Fail. Only 4 women in the first 10 extras so it was close. It was noticeable that there were a lot of women in the crowd scenes and so on compared to a lot of films.
Landau test: Fail. This is hard to discuss in depth without spoilers, but a major female character is basically used simply as a plot device to give problems to Matt Damon’s character and start Act II with him in difficulty.
Russo test: Fail. There is a character that is referred to as bisexual, or maybe pan, but he is very minor, and has no impact on the plot except as “he’s the bi celebrity” so while it technically passes 1 step, it fails on the rest of it.
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