I love burning apocalypses as much as the next person, but sometimes the explodey blockbuster formula makes you forget how mind-bending and screwed up science fiction can really be. That’s why Alexander Payne’s new flick Downsizing, about people trying to save money by shrinking themselves, is a welcome respite from the usual.
Payne has won Oscars twice for his screenplays—first for Sideways and then The Descendants—and Downsizing will be his first foray into science fiction. His movies have always been oddball stories tinged with a bit of the surreal, usually focusing on regular guys who get in way over their heads in outlandish situations.
That’s definitely the pattern in Downsizing, in which Matt Damon puts on his best friendly dork persona as Paul (it fits him nicely). He’s married to Audrey (Kirsten Wiig), and they both appear to be struggling with the stress of their jobs and making ends meet. That’s when they find out about a bizarre new technology, developed by scientists in Norway, that can permanently shrink people down to the size of Barbie dolls. The idea is to live more sustainably on the planet, but it also turns out that everything is cheaper when you shrink. In the trailer, we see Paul and Audrey meeting with some kind of financial adviser, who explains that their savings will be worth millions in the downsized community.