The new film, DOWNSIZING, is the 7th movie from Alexander Payne, the filmmaker who directed THE DESCENDANTS here on Oahu six years ago.
DOWNSIZING starts out as an entertaining science fiction satire with a fascinating premise, but it loses its direction about a third of the way through.
The movie is set in a world where scientists have figured out how to shrink people to five inches tall as a solution to over population.
But the downsizing process is sold to the middle class as a way of making their limited resources turn into more than enough money to live extravagantly in a tiny mansion.
Miniature friend: Downsizing takes the pressure right off. Especially money pressure.
Paul: Well plus it must feel good to know you're really making a difference.
Friend: You mean all that crap about saving the planet?
Friend: Downsizing is about saving yourself. Now Caroline and I, we live like kings.
The setup for DOWNSIZING promises lots of fun.
Slick corporate sales people tout the benefits and none of the drawbacks of the idea to Paul and Audrey played by Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig.
Salesman on stage: What do you think of my place? Just wait till you see what's inside.
Woman playing his wife: Jeff, you've gotta stop inviting guests over without telling me. I finally just got into the tub to relax after such busy day. First I took a tennis lesson and had a massage….
Saleswoman: In Leisureland your 150 thousand dollars translates to 12.5 million dollars to live on for life. I mean c'mon.
Saleswoman: So, what do you think?
The hard sell works on Paul though we never see the couple discuss the pros and cons of this life altering decision.
The factory like process by which people are reduced in size is quite imaginative especially at the end when workers with spatulas pick up their bodies as if they were cookies coming out of an oven.
But then Paul discovers that his wife didn't go through with the deal. And that's when the movie begins to lose its way.
After several zigs and zags that go nowhere, a new plot emerges in which Paul discovers that even in "Leisureland" there are poor people.
Meeting a Vietnamese refugee well played by Hong Chau changes Paul's life when he realizes that, like her, he can devote his much of his energy to helping others. That's a noble decision for sure but too pat of a resolution for what began as such clever satire.