Last night, I got the chance to watch the new movie, Downsizing, at an exclusive screening. The movie 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. But later, we find out that people are downsizing to save themselves from a lack of ambition or debt. And that’s exactly what the main character, Paul, does.
At the start, Paul goes through the procedure of getting small, which is interesting to say the least. They strip him of his clothes, shave his entire body, and pull his teeth out. And unfortunately, his wife, Audrey, played by Kristen Wiig, leaves him instead of downsizing with him. We then see Paul go from working a mundane cubicle job to helping a Vietnamese refugee, Ngoc Lan Tran. And he helps her 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. Their overall plan is to meet the creator of downsizing. There, they find out that the world might end from a methane leak in Antarctica. And that mimics what people have said in the past about the world ending. But this time, the first group of downsized people just want to save themselves by going underground. And there, they’ll have a new society, which they’ve been building since downsizing became possible. Paul almost joins them, but he ultimately decides at the last minute not to. But it’s all wasted effort because the world doesn’t actually end up, well, ending.
Overall, it’s great that an Asian actress played a Vietnamese character. But there were too many flaws for it to be successful for diversity’s sake. For starters, Hong Chau, who plays Ngoc Lan, isn’t even Vietnamese. She’s actually Thai. Plus, she’s not even disabled so the prosthetic leg part of her character was just a weird addition to the story. The character, Ngoc Lan, was also incredibly underdeveloped. She’s clearly a good person as she gave back to people in her small apartment building, but everything about her was stereotyped. She’s a refugee, she had a very strong “Vietnamese” accent, and she spoke in broken English. Being Vietnamese myself, the accent was overdone and borderline offensive. And adding the broken English was overdone. Add I can only imagine how offensive the portrayal of a disabled character was with the addition of the fake prosthetic.
Overall, it’s great that they cast an Asian actress in a movie, especially one with a lot of A-list actors like Matt Damon (who’s had diversity issues in the past via The Great Wall movie), Kristen Wiig, and more. But her character in this film just emphasized the biggest problems with diversity in the entertainment industry. And that’s making that character a complete stereotype. Furthermore, it’s still unclear what the real plot of the movie is. The idea of saving the human race from overpopulation is an interesting concept, but it didn’t feel like that was the main idea behind the movie. It was clearly meant to be a satire and had its moment of comedy, but the plot was just too confusing in the end.
Downsizing comes out in theaters on December 22.