THERE are certain films that you never seem to grow tired of despite repeated viewings. Among these are: “It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946), “Jerry Maguire” (1996) and “The Truman Show” (1998). These movies touch the heart as they give a sense of meaning to our lives and give us hope despite the odds that we experience through life.
I will add one more to my “repeat” list: “Downsizing,” the latest Matt Damon-starrer that is described as a “science fiction comedy-drama.” The plot revolves around an everyman, Paul Safranek (Damon), who takes the life-changing decision of “downsizing,” that is, shrinking to five inches tall to live in an experimental downsized elegant community supposedly to address two social issues: population explosion and shrinking resources.
The first quarter of the opus draws a bleak picture of the life of Paul as an occupational therapist, trying to make ends meet and wanting to change to a better life with her equally unhappy, yet loving wife. Together, they then decide to downsize as their worth is multiplied to enable them to live a life of luxury beyond their dreams. But instead of living happily ever after, the irreversibly-shrunk Paul realizes that his wife backed out in the last minute, leaving him alone in a huge mansion. He takes on a job as a call center operator to make use of his luxurious, yet unhappy life.
But life in the perfect community isn’t as it seems. And this is where the story becomes more interesting with the entry of the character Ngoc Lan Tran, a shrunk Vietnamese activist. Not only were the dialogues between Paul and Ngoc at times hilarious, they were also intensely serious. This motion picture tackles such issues as migration, poverty, exploitation, drugs and global warming. It actually asks the question, “Should we simply get away from the troubles of the world or can we be the solution even in little ways?” This “little” film tries to answer big issues.
Damon is one of the actors of his generation who is unafraid to take on roles in films that tackle the ills of society, features that end up to be financial disappointments to producers but cinematic gems for artists and critics. Damon draws the audience to the gamut of emotions that Paul Safranek goes through his pathetic life. Christoph Waltz is brilliant as an aging party boy. But it is American-Vietnamese actress Hong Chau, whose parents were refugees and herself born in a refugee camp in Thailand, that becomes the heart of the story. She is as real as you can get, and she deserves to get noticed by awards bodies in Hollywood.
I thought the film ended abruptly, but on hindsight it got me thinking about my life vis-à-vis my relationship with those I love, with people in the community where I live, and with the world at large. I should see this film again.