Friday, December 29, 2017

Alexander Payne's DOWNSIZING proves so much more than its cute trailer might suggest

Sure, its trailer makes DOWNSIZING -- the new film from Alexander Payne that he directed (and co-wrote with Jim Taylor) -- look pretty funny and adorable. But it barely gives a clue to what this unusual and surprisingly thoughtful and heartfelt movie actually delivers. Which may be one reason that it is not drawing the expected crowds the way that a funny sci-fi movie might. The other reason, on which TrustMovies would just about stake his life, is its distributor, Paramount Pictures, which, along with Warner Brothers has historically had little idea of how to handle any out-of-the-ordinary movie. (Both studios started up and then folded their independent/art-film arms some years back.)

To my knowledge, the filmmaker (shown at left) has never made even a mainstream movie (nor anything close to a blockbuster), but that movie trailer seems determined to turn this film into one, come what may. The result so far is a major box-office disappointment, but I suspect that the movie itself will outlast its detractors and find its way into "classic" status, if the world as we know it should even last long enough for that.

Among the quite wonderful things about Downsizing -- for anyone who has not seen that trailer or read even one review of the film -- is how it takes its very original and fun/funny premise and examines it from so very many perspectives: cultural, economic, political, social, human and humane. The movie is consistently not just interesting but invigorating because Payne and Taylor refuse to simply hand us something clever and funny and then coast along on those.

That the film is so full of intelligence and fun is one thing, but Payne's use of big-time actors in so many small roles is also a delight. From Niecy Nash (two photos below) to Laura Dern,(above), Neil Patrick Harris (below),  James Van Der Beek and Margo Martindale (who doesn't even rate a close-up!) and so many others, the movie's a non-stop parade of smart actors who do exactly what's required of them while adding some amusing "star power" to the proceedings.

When around midway the film slowly morphs into something else, because that something else is so urgent (in terms of theme) and "felt" (in how the filmmakers and their cast present it), Downsizing turns into an extraordinarily humane and important endeavor -- while still offering up enough intelligence and grace to hold any audience left in America that possesses both a mind and a heart. (I know, I know: They're few and far between these days.)

As Payne's leading man, Matt Damon (below, left) shows us once again why he is becoming a near-perfect American "everyman." He was a nasty one in Surburbicon (another under-performing but better-than-you've heard movie), and he 's an equally fine one in this film, as he captures everything from the kindness and caring to the fear and doubt that currently besets so many of us in the western world.

Kristin Wiig (above, right) is just right as his wife, Audrey, but even better is an actress new to me named Hong Chau (below, left), who plays a Vietnamese woman who Damon's character tries to help. Ms Chau is revelatory. But then so is this entire movie.

A word must be said, too, for that amazing actor and Oscar winner, Christoph Waltz, below, who seems to grow better with every screen appearance. He's a character actor non-pareil, and he outdoes himself here -- yes, again.

I don't want to go into any more detail because you deserve to experience the fun and surprise of Downsizing on your own. In a year of so many very fine films, this one is another -- and one of the best. From, as I said, Paramount Pictures, the movie is playing just about everywhere. Click here to find the theater(s) nearest you.

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