Downsizing imagines what might happen if, as a solution to over-population, Norwegian scientists discover how to shrink humans to five inches tall and propose a 200-year global transition from big to small.
Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) settled for a smaller version of himself a long time ago. Barely making ends meet on his salary as an Omaha Steaks occupational therapist, he had failed to deliver on wife Audrey’s (Kristen Wiig) oversized dreams and forfeited his own to meet others’ expectations. Future prospects for the barely middle-class couple, childless and in their 40s, had hit a wall.
A decade had passed since he watched Norwegian Scientist Dr. Jorgen Asbjørnsen (Rolf Lassgård) and his team wow the world with a solution to its biggest problem – overpopulation. The solve? Cellular miniaturization better known as downsizing. The goal? Convince six percent of the world’s population to voluntarily shrink themselves to 5-inches in 200 years and minimize the possibility of human extinction.
Living small had a big purpose. But the noble quest to save the human race needed a little fine tuning. Paul and Audrey would discover the possibilities of a better life via downsizing when they ran into their friend Dave (Jason Sudeikis) at a school reunion. Paul couldn’t believe his eyes: Dave and wife Carol, now 5-inches tall, had the perfect life living luxuriously in the flawless planned Leisure-land community for the small. The Safraneks had to see this for themselves.
The Leisure-land tour was jaw dropping: The best of the big world scaled down proportionately to small. The upside? Their $100,000 in assets that bought next to nothing in the big world would retrofit into a cool $12.5 million in the small world. They could have it all for a lifetime.
The downside? They would have to shrink to .0364-percent of their current body mass and volume. Downsizing was irreversible.
Lucky for them, any kinks in the procedure had been resolved over the past 10 years. They were in. Or so Paul thought.
A year later, taking the leap had not paid off. Paul was divorced and alone, working as a sales rep and living in an apartment as fate intervened. Paul’s Serbian playboy neighbor Dusan Mirkovic (Christoph Waltz) and his business partner Konrad (Udo Kier) intruded on his mundane existence and introduced him to their lucrative party life. It is there he meets dissident Vietnamese refugee and amputee Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), Dusan’s housekeeper, who had been downsized against her will and exiled from her country. Not one to suffer fools, she forces Paul to experience another downside of the downsized world – the massive tenement where she and other impoverished immigrants live on the other side of a vast, imposing wall.
Thrust in her world, Paul would come to understand a love he could have never imagined, a perspective he would have never realized and a chance at greatness he never saw coming.
“Beautiful. Funny. Heartbreaking.”
That is how Matt Damon sizes up the story Director Alexander Payne co-wrote with Jim Taylor that drew him to the dystopian dramedy for our times, a bittersweet sci-fi adventure about an everyman given a second chance to live a meaningful life on his own terms.
It was actually Jim Taylor and his brother, Associate Producer Douglas Taylor, who came up with the initial concept.
“Doug imagined a process where you could shrink people and then ran the numbers to figure out things like how many tiny people you could feed with one hamburger,” recalls Jim. Kicking around the notion of less is more as the means to becoming a millionaire, their banter soon transformed into “an interesting premise for a movie.”
Payne began to stretch the context of that premise. “We reasoned that downsizing would become an international trend, so Jim and I wanted to give some sense of how it’s happening around the world, not just how it was affecting America,” he says. “Everything else started unfolding from there.”
See Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz and Jason Sudeikis in Downsizing in theaters December 22nd.