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Alexander Payne
Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz
Writing Credits:
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

A man realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendor.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$4,954,287 on 2668 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
Latin Spanish Dolby 5.1
English Audio Description
Canadian French Dolby 5.1
Brazilian Portuguese Dolby 5.1
Latin Spanish
Canadian French
Brazilian Portuguese
Supplements Subtitles:
Latin Spanish
Canadian French
Brazilian Portuguese

Runtime: 135 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 3/20/2018

• “Working with Alexander” Featurette
• “The Cast” Featurette
• “A Visual Journey” Featurette
• “A Matter of Perspective” Featurette
• “That Smile” Featurette
• “A Global Concern” Featurette


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Downsizing [Blu-Ray] (2017)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 11, 2018)

From his 1996 directorial debut Citizen Ruth through 2013’s Nebraska, Alexander Payne earned consistently strong critical notices, and his plaudits piled up over time. Indeed, the final three of those six films each earned nominations for Oscar’s Best Picture.

And then came 2017’s Downsizing. While all of Payne’s prior directorial efforts got at least 80 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, Downsizing rated a mediocre 55 percent, and for the first time since Ruth, a Payne film received zero Oscar nominations.

Given the consistently high quality of Payne’s prior work, I found it tough to imagine that Downsizing would offer such a stark drop, so I decided to give it a look. How bad could it be?

Scientists invent a method that can shrink people to roughly five inches in height. Billed as a way to help reduce human impact on the environment, volunteers go through the procedure due to the fact this new status will let them live beyond their full-sized means.

Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) decides that this sounds like a good plan, and he convinces wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) to agree. We follow Paul’s new life in Leisureland, a tiny realm populated by “downsized” humans.

On the surface, Downsizing looks like little more than an opportunity for lots of sight gags about topics related to size. The trailer hints at these, as we see the delight with which the characters greet a “normal-sized” bottle of vodka in their “downsized” world, and we also find wackiness like a shot in which a shrunken Paul looks in his pants to make sure his dick remains proportional.

Again, only the presence of Payne creates some expectation that Downsizing can offer more depth than just a litany of easy jokes. Consistently able to get to the heart of characters and offer deep, human tales, Payne should be able to bring heart to a potentially silly enterprise.

On the positive side, Payne gets the “shrunken world” gags out of the way during the movie’s first act, so the rest of the movie can follow a different path. On the negative side, Payne seems to have no idea where to go once those comedic stylings conclude.

Yeef – what a mess! I can’t figure out how a filmmaker as talented and previously sure-handed as Payne delivered a movie that comes across as so muddled and incoherent.

But he did, as Downsizing wanders all over the place in search of some form of purpose or direction – though perhaps it comes with too much purpose. The film pursues a variety of issues such as social class, racism, and climate change, none of which receive satisfactory delineation.

These mean Downsizing seems more like a collection of messages in search of characters and a plot than a coherent experience. As a result, we find a disjointed mess as it pursues none of these areas in a satisfying way, especially because the movie’s simplistic views make it patronizing at times.

To boot, Downsizing usually feels downright dull. I get that we need Paul as an “every man” for the journey, but couldn’t Payne have mustered at least a vaguely engaging personality for our lead?

Damon doesn’t help, as he plays Paul with little verve or engagement. I get some of this needs to happen so Paul will remain the audience’s proxy, but I still think he could’ve gotten more to make him interesting. As depicted, Paul is a drab role and we never really care about him.

Or anything else, honestly, and the movie’s slow pacing hurts it there as well. It takes almost 40 minutes before Paul finally “gets small” and it wastes much of that time with material that could develop more quickly and effectively.

Even when Paul does “downsize”, the pacing remains sluggish and without purpose. Downsizing feels obsessed with details to a degree that ignores the bigger picture – maybe that’s ironic in a film about “smallness”, but it doesn’t work to create an engaging tale.

Add to this surprisingly bad effects and Downsizing flops in most possible ways. Despite all the talent involved and a potentially interesting concept, the movie becomes far too muddled and boring to succeed.

The Disc Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus C-

Downsizing appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The visuals held up fairly well.

Sharpness looked largely appropriate, though some softness crept in at times. Still, overall delineation remained mostly satisfying, so the image usually seemed accurate and concise. No issues with jaggies or shimmering occurred, and I saw no edge haloes or source flaws.

In terms of colors, the movie opted for orange and teal, though it kept these subdued, so they didn’t go crazy. The low-key palette seemed satisfactory.

Blacks were pretty dark and tight, and low-light shots displayed reasonable clarity, though I thought they could be a smidgen murky at times. While not excellent, the visuals appeared positive.

I wouldn’t anticipate fireworks from the audio from a character piece like Downsizing, and its DTS-HD MA 7.1 track gave me the expected affair. Music became the most prominent aspect of the soundfield, as the score and songs used the channels fairly well.

Effects had less to do. Ambience ruled the day, so not much more gave the track pop. This seemed appropriate, though, as the chatty flick didn’t come with many obvious opportunities for sonic sizzle. A thunderstorm brought out a little life and a few other louder scenes appeared, but these remained infrequent.

Audio quality appeared fine. Music was full and rich, while effects came across with appropriate accuracy, even if they usually lacked much punch due to a lack of ambition.

Speech came across as distinctive and concise. Nothing here excelled but the soundtrack fit the material.

Six featurettes fill out the disc, and we start with Working with Alexander. It takes up 12 minutes, 22 seconds and provides info from casting director John Jackson, editor Kevin Tent, writer/director Alexander Payne, producer Mark Johnson, executive producer Diana Pokorny, director of photography Phedon Papamichael, production designer Stefania Cella, visual effects supervisor James E. Price, writer/producer Jim Taylor, 2nd unit DP Radan Popovic, associate producer/2nd unit director Tracy Boyd, composer Rolfe Kent, and actors Matt Damon, Laura Dern, Hong Chau, Christoph Waltz, Kristen Wiig, Neil Patrick Harris, Margo Martindale, Rolf Lassgard, and Margareta Petterson.

As implied by the title, “Working” discusses Payne’s actions on the set. Though we get a few specifics about the filmmaking processes, it usually offers little more than praise for the director.

Next comes The Cast, an 11-minute, 30-second piece with Johnson, Jackson, Payne, Damon, Taylor, Pokorny, Chau, Wiig, Waltz, Harris, Dern, Martindale, Tent, Petterson, Lassgard, and actors Jason Sudeikis and Ingjerd Egeberg. Unsurprisingly, this one examines the actors and their performances. Also unsurprisingly, it doesn’t bring a lot of substance, as it prefers to focus on happy talk.

With A Visual Journey, we get a 14-minute, two-second program that offers notes from Pokorny, Payne, Cella, Papamichael, Johnson, Damon, Boyd, Chau, Egeberg, Wiig, property master David Gulick, set designer Liane Prevost, makeup department head Julie Hewett, art director Kim Zaharko and costume designer Wendy Chuck.

“Journey” covers set and production design, locations, costumes and makeup. Despite some of the usual praise, “Journey” brings us a pretty good collection of insights about the work done to bring out the “downsized” world.

During the nine-minute, six-second A Matter of Perspective. we hear from Price, Payne, Cella, Damon, Chau, and visual effects producer Susan MacLeod. This one focuses on effects, and it does so in a compelling manner.

That Smile goes for six minutes, 27 seconds and includes Johnson, Payne, Taylor, Boyd, Chau, Sudeikis, Wiig, MacLeod, Damon, Martindale and Tent. We learn that Damon is a wonderful guy and “his smile lights up the world”. Yawn.

Finally, A Global Concern runs six minutes, 39 seconds and provides thoughts from Payne, Price, Damon, Chau, Dern, Lassgard, Wiig, Sudeikis, Waltz, Jackson, Pokorny, Cella, Tent, Egeberg, Taylor, Boyd and Johnson. “Concern” talks about environmental topics and recycling.

It’s incredibly sanctimonious – I’m all for the efforts and consciousness under discussion but I don’t need to hear Hollywood honchos brag about how hard they work to save the world. It’s so smug that it makes me want to dump toxic waste in my nearest lake just to spite these people.

Prior to 2017, Alexander Payne had never made a bad movie. All good things come to an end, as the muddled, sluggish Downsizing demonstrates the director’s fallibility. The Blu-ray brings us generally positive picture and audio as well as erratic supplements. Even – and maybe especially - Payne diehards will likely disappointed with this messy misfire.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.2 Stars Number of Votes: 5
0 3:
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