Film Review: Downsizing

Alexander Payne’s Downsizing is a satire on the environmental issues and society at large. It is entertaining and thought-provoking, but not entirely satisfying.

Occupational therapist Paul lives in a world where it is possible to shrink people down to live in tiny communities, in order to address overpopulation concerns. The more Paul finds out about this new society, the more he thinks it could be the life for him…

Directed and co-written by Alexander Payne, Downsizing‘s narrative focuses on an everyman protagonist and his interactions with both the full-size and miniature world. The film has a great premise which plays out as both a personal journey for the protagonist and a wider comment on society.

The ideas that Downsizing proposes are interesting ones. The film questions what a new society would be like, the issue of status, and finding one’s place in the world. Some of these are viewed through protagonist Paul, whilst others become clearer through the characters he interacts with.

The main negative of Downsizing is that for all the ideas floating round, the film ruminates too much on less interesting ones. There is a clear message here, and it is delivered with humour as not to be too preachy. The evolution of society that Payne presents feels plausible, if understandably disappointing.

Ngoc Lan Tran could have been a great character. However, it is a shame that making light of her accent is the path chosen instead of the strong interesting character she is first introduced as in a news segment. Her function is to help sharpen Paul’s mind more than anything else. Other supporting characters take the fun roles to allow for a meditative experience for Paul.

Matt Damon plays against type slightly, and does a good job as Paul. Christoph Waltz is always great value. He and Udo Kier inject a lot needed fun into the film. It is a shame that Hong Chau is not given more worthy lines to work with. For all of Alexander Payne’s talents, viewers may wish for a sharper screenplay. Nevertheless, Downsizing is still an entertaining watch.

Downsizing is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Launch

It’s that time of year again. Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2017. The festival this year sees 242 feature films being screened, which includes 28 world premieres. Here are some picks to look out for at the London Film Festival 2017…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing galas previously announced; closing gala Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in particular looks great. Directed by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), the film stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. Other Headline Gala highlights include Battle of the Sexes (starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell), Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Another highlight is The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). The film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, and is about a doctor who introduces his family to a fatherless young man he has befriended.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year sees the return of the Embankment Garden Cinema and its series of Strand Galas.   There are a number of exciting screenings, including Redoubtable (Le Redoutable). Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) the film is a biopic of Jean-Luc Godard and stars Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, and Bérénice Bejo. Also showing is Wonderstruck, based on the novel of the same name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol), the film stars Julianne Moore. Among the Special Presentations are Sally Potter’s The Party and the first two episodes of David Fincher’s upcoming Netflix series Mindhunter.

Official Competition

Amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2017 are The Breadwinner (an animated film about a young girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul), and Thoroughbred, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy. The First Feature Competition includes Beast, which is about a young woman who falls for a police suspect. Also in this category is I Am Not A Witch, about a young girl in a Zambian village who is accused of being a witch. The Documentary Competition includes Jane, a film about primatologist Jane Goodall.

Strands

A highlight of this year’s Love strand is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on the Neil Gaiman short story. The film stars Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. The Debate strand features The Venerable W., a documentary about a Buddhist monk espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. Laugh includes Brigsby Bear, a comedy about a man who tries to remake a children’s show he was obsessed with. A highlight of the Dare category is 9 Fingers, directed by FJ Ossang. The Thrill section includes the classic noir Mildred Pierce, whilst Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch star in Lucky as part of the Journey strand.

The Cult strand includes Paco Plaza’s horror Veronica, and Create features documentary G Funk, about Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. The Family strand includes fairy tale compendium Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess. Experimenta features documentary Tonsler Park, a timely film about polling stations in Charlottesville during last year’s US election.

The full London Film Festival 2017 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 4th-15th October 2017.