An incoherent mess
These raw thoughts come to you from Darkness Brewing immediately after seeing the film.
That sucked. That really sucked. I wanted to like this film. And somewhere here, there is a really good movie. But it's too long, SUPER PREACHY, and overall just a mess. This film is a mishmash of ideas, and unfortunately barely any of them stick. It's been a bad year for Matt Damon, as i think both this and Suburbicon will find themselves on my “Worst Films of the Year” list.
There isn't much good to say about this film, but the highlight is undoubtedly Hong Chao. She is sensational as Ngoc Lan Tran, a Vietnamese woman forced to “downsize” while in prison. While there are some worries that her character is a racial stereotype, (I believe those complaints are overblown, but have some validity) she still dazzles in her role, providing a glimmer of hope for an otherwise joyless film. Matt Damon is…..Matt Damon in this, and outside of Christoph Waltz, who's at least somewhat charming, the entire supporting cast is pretty lifeless. Why is Kristen Wiig even in this??? Actually, she's part of a bigger problem with this film.
As I said before, this film is a mishmash of incoherent ideas. But it also feels like two films thrown into one, and that doesn't help its cause. The first half of the film features a totally unnecessary “origin story” for the downsizing process, (seriously - the first 15 minutes of this film are completely useless….we don't need to see the origins of the downsizing concept) then we get this uninteresting story of Damon and Wiig deciding whether they should go through the procedure, just to have Wiig RANDOMLY decide to not go through with the process at the LAST possible second. This 180 from her character isn't earned AT ALL, and in the second half she's all but a distant memory. So….why was she such a prominent character early on? Beats me.
Finally in the second half we see Hong Chau's character, which was a wonderful thing because by that point I was really struggling to get through this disaster. For the briefest of moments, I saw glimmer of hope: a love story between her and Damon that made me think of the movie Her: a mismatched relationship with a lot of complexity and depth and heart. But as soon as this glimmer came…..it faded away, and the film morphed into this ridiculously preachy statement on global warming. It felt like “The Day After Tomorrow meets Birdemic” with this abrupt OMG GLOBAL WARMING IS GONNA KILL US ALL TOMORROW SO LET'S ALL ENJOY ONE FINAL SUNSET TOGETHER surrounded by some terrible, TERRIBLE exposition. It was so stupid! Look. I don't mind being preached too about something that's important. But what director Alexander Payne does here is basically stop the entire film to be like LOOK, GUYS. GLOBAL WARMING, AMIRITE? Matt Damon has a decent character arc in the second half, but his “Wow! I can't believe this is happening to me!” mantra gets really old, really fast. It didn't end up mattering how good or bad his character arc was, I just wanted him to stop talking by the end of it. Also, for how good Hong Chau was, her character was not written very well. She has no arc to speak of, she just gets a few good lines. But she is the only redeeming quality in this otherwise disappointing film. See it for Chau’s (likely soon-to-be Oscar nominated) performance, just wait for it to hit Netflix so you can skip the first 75 minutes of it.
My Number: 3/10 Bad