So last night, I got the chance to watch the new movie, Downsizing, at an exclusive screening, which centers around the idea of seeing the plus side in shrinking people, or downsizing. It stems from scientists in Norway creating this procedure in the name of saving the human race from humanity’s biggest problem; overpopulation.
Then later in the movie, we find out via Jason Sudeikis’s character, that people are generally downsizing as a way to save themselves from a lack of ambition or debt, which is what our main character, Paul does. So he goes through the procedure of getting small, which is interesting to say the least: stripping him of his clothes, shaving his entire body, pulling his teeth out, and unfortunately getting left by his wife, Audrey, played by Kristen Wiig.
We follow Paul as he goes from working a mundane cubicle job to helping a Vietnamese refugee, Ngoc Lan Tran, who works as a cleaning lady and gives back to her own community after he accidentally breaks her prosthetic leg. Then he tries to get away from helping her by going to Norway with his upstairs neighbor, Dusan, and his friend, and meets up with the creator of downsizing.
Here, they find out that the creator of downsizing believes that the world will end in a matter of days due from a methane leak in Antarctica, which mimics what people have said about the world ending in the past. Except this time, the first group of people who downsized want to save themselves by going underground into a new society that they’ve been building ever since downsizing became possible. Paul almost joins them but ultimately decides at the last-minute not to and of course, the world doesn’t end.
It was great that there was a Vietnamese character in the film who was played by an Asian actress. But there were just too many flaws for it to be successful in the name of diversity. For starters, the actress who plays Ngoc Lan, Hong Chau, isn’t even Vietnamese, she’s Thai. Her character was also incredibly underdeveloped; it was great that she was a good person who gave back to the other people in her poor apartment building, but everything about her was pretty stereotyped.
She was a refugee, had a strong “Vietnamese” accent, and she spoke in broken English. Being Vietnamese myself, I could tell that the accent was too strong and overdone and adding broken English to it was a little too much. It’s great that they casted an Asian actress in a movie, especially one that starred plenty of A-list actors like Matt Damon (who’s had a little backlash from diversity issues in the past, i.e: The Great Wall movie), Kristen Wiig, Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, etc. But having her character being almost a complete stereotype is just one of the biggest problems with diversity in the entertainment industry.
Overall, it’s still unclear what the real plot of the movie is even though the idea of saving the human race from overpopulation is an interesting one. Although the movie had its moments of comedy as well as some serious ones, the fact that there wasn’t a clear plot made the overarching story uninteresting, despite its good intentions.
Downsizing comes out in theater on December 22
Samantha Nguyen covers entertainment news for MFST. You can follow her on Twitter @sngyenthai