FALLING SHORT OF THE PREVIEW: REFLECTIONS UPON DOWNSIZING

The official trailer for “Downsizing” does an impressive job of convincing the viewer that the film is a comedy. Let us make one thing clear: this is not a comedy. It’s occasionally amusing, and at some point in the script’s development, it may have been a biting social satire. And then the first act ends, at which point the movie doesn’t just lose its way: it falls off a cliff.
— David Medsker
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Paul Safranek has lived in the same house since he was born. He works a banal job at Omaha Steaks and doesn't have the money he wants for he and his wife to be happy. Thus begins the promise and premise of a potentially good story, which spirals halfway through into a social satire and a Faustian allegory. If something seems too good to be true, chances are that it really is too good. Downsizing offers the promise of a really amusing and clever film, but ends up as both a cultural assault and comment on the potentially dismal survival of the human race.  Those of us who went into the movie with the expectation that they were about to see a comedy (myself included ) were sadly mistaken. The trailer was misleading and the hype showed us how hungry we are for amusement, disappointed when we are let down. In his book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Neil Postman talks about our addiction to being entertained. He refers to Aldous Huxley's ideas about the public's inability to fight the power of advertising, and how we are so distracted that we do not even realize we are being manipulated. Whether this is public brainwashing or simply the desire to escape the banal like Paul in Downsizing, the result is the same :  subtle and not so subtle messages telling us that life could be better, that what we have is not enough. Payne examines these ideas and spins a satire letting us know that "all that glitters is not gold," yet his methodology falls short of his ideology.

Postman says that “What the advertiser needs to know is not what is right about the product but what is wrong about the buyer.” Alexander Payne's movie seems to not only be about the persuasion of the media, but about we the consumers who want more from our lives.  As for his ideas on climate change and the potential risks we face going forward - these themes may have been better conveyed through a dramatic film not billed as light hearted entertainment.