a burgundy zine

Downsizing: a Little Movie with a Big Message

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

By: burgundy bug

Downsizing starring Matt Damon

Source: Downsizing | IMDB

Directed by the American film producer Alex Payne, the 2017 scifi comedy and drama Downsizing is a little movie that does it’s best to deliver a big message.

Starring Matt Damon, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, and Kristen Wiig, Downsizing details the life of Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) after him and his wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to move to Leisure Land.

The Plot

Leisure Land is an experimental community of individuals who have decided to shrink themselves sort-of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-esque. It is sold to the Safraneks as a seemingly perfect, utopian society.

In Leisure Land, your money scales up quite a bit – not that it seems to matter all that much at first, anyways, as most of life’s daily living expenses are covered. Everyone shares cars and you move into a home with a fully-stocked fridge.

The shrinkage procedure, however, isn’t so pretty. In order to downsize, you must be shaved head-to-toe as well as have all of your teeth removed.

During this process, Audrey Safranek begins to get cold feet until having her eyebrows shaved ultimately throws her over the deep end. Audrey backs out of the process, leaving her husband, Paul, tiny and alone in Leisure Land.

Devastated, it takes Paul about a year to finalize the divorce and settle into an apartment, which you could say is a downsize from the mansion he originally intended to reside in side by side Audrey.

The morning after attending a party hosted by his neighbor, Dušan (Christoph Waltz), Paul finds Dušan’s housecleaner, Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau) pocketing some of the Dušan’s prescription pain medication. Tran insists they are for her roommate and coaxes Paul into attempting to treat her.

During their treacherous journey into the impoverished area outside of the walls of Leisure Land, the audience is given a glimpse into the side of this society that is swept under the rug.

Mirroring the faults of contemporary America, we see just how neglected this sector of the downsized population is. Paul and Tran spend hours traveling by bus and trudging through less-than-ideal conditions to arrive at her trailer.

In spite of Paul’s initial suspicions, her roommate is gravely ill, ravaged by the cancer that began in her stomach and has riddled itself throughout the rest of her body.

Shortly after Tran purposely kills her ill roommate with an overdose of pain medication, Paul accidentally breaks Tran’s prosthetic leg. In return, he promises to work for her cleaning service. Paul and Tran also go on to distribute food to those in need throughout Leisure Land.

In all honesty, the movie could have wrapped up around this half and I would have been more than happy. The concept was interesting, the plot was easy to digest, the jokes (albeit corny) had been well-timed, and the absurdist social commentary was wonderfully contrasted throughout the film up until this point.

The 40 minutes following is an extension of Paul and Tran’s predictable-yet-heartwarming love arch, which shocks the viewer with a particular scene following their first affair.

What kinda fuck you give me? – Ngoc Lan Tran


During the last half of the movie, Paul, Dušan, Tran, and Dušan’s business partner Joris Konrad travel to Norway. While making the journey, Paul is informed by Dr. Asbjørnsen that humanity is doomed by the Artic methane emissions that can not be stopped.

Luckily, Dr. Asbjørnsen had prepared a vault within a mountain to protect one of the colonies in Norway. Paul contemplates seeking shelter within the vault, only to turn around to be with Ngoc Lan Tran.

Paul and Tran return to Leisure Land, continuing to lend a hand to the forgotten sector of the population that is in need of a little charity.


Downsizing certainly isn’t perfect, however I would argue that it is worth more than an average rating of 5.7/10 (49%) on Rotten Tomatoes.

As a whole, the film begins to feel overwhelming by it’s last half. There are too many elements to the plot and the transition into Norway feels rigid.

By that point in the film, it had already started to feel like it was dragging on. To have to sit through an additional hour hung up on how it should’ve ended quite some time ago for a plot that really didn’t make sense or gel with the rest of the movie was sort of like the cinematic equivalent of nails on a chalk board.

However, I still hold that the first half of the film was pretty well-done. I really appreciate how Downsizing immediately took a twist by having Audrey back out of the shrinkage procedure. I found the social statements justified and thought provoking. I also genuinely enjoyed the comedic undertones throughout this half.

Sure, the soundtrack is bleak, uninteresting, and otherwise forgettable. It honestly sounds like they strung together royalty-free stock music. However, it’s lack of a personality is overshadowed by the movie’s cinematic side.

In fact, cinema plays a huge role in Downsizing‘s subtle humor. A few memorable moments include the giant saltine the nurse teases Paul with upon waking up from the procedure, as well as the singular full-sized dollar bill that can be seen in the background of Dušan’s apartment.

Much of Downsizing is also shot to reflect that each character is only 5-inches tall. The angles include plenty of head-space to make them feel small even in Leisure Land, which is scaled according to the size of the downsized population.

All-in-all, I’d say this film deserves a high six or rough seven-out-of-ten. It certainly doesn’t rule, but Downsizing is a little movie that does it’s best to deliver a big message.

Interested in having content featured in an upcoming blog post or issue of The Burgundy Zine? Head on over to the submissions page!

For all other inquiries, please fulfill a contact form.

burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

View more posts from this author