An incoherent mess
Downsizing (2017): A social satire in which a man realizes he would have a better life if he were to shrink himself to five inches tall, allowing him to live in wealth and splendor.
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
All the Christopher Plummer in the World
All the Money in the World (2017): The story of the kidnapping of 16-year-old John Paul Getty III and the desperate attempt by his devoted mother to convince his billionaire grandfather Jean Paul Getty to pay the ransom.
Happy new year everyone! So I'm going to try a new thing here on Enter the Movies. Some of my favorite posts in the past have been the ones where I write them almost immediately after seeing the film. I also do this every year immediately following the Oscars. So I'm gonna turn this into a new series that I will use occasionally. Aka whenever I feel like it. Hope you enjoy it!
These raw thoughts come to you from the bar at Braxton Labs in Newport, KY, immediately after seeing All the Money in the World.
There's a great story behind this. After allegations of sexual assault arose against Kevin Spacey, director Ridley Scott and company removed him from the film just six weeks ahead of its nationwide release, and they stumbled onto gold with his replacement, Christopher Plummer. The highlight of this film is Christopher Plummer’s performance as J. Paul Getty. Plummer was Scott's first choice before Sony asked him to “find someone more famous” for the role, and I can see why he wanted to go with Plummer initially. HOWEVEr, that does not excuse the glaring faults of this film. The film plays fast and loose with its subject matter, which doesn't make a lot of sense to me given how naturally dramatic the actual story is. After getting off to a bang with some terrific sequences with J. Paul Getty, the film doesn't know what to do with itself as it slugs through its snoozefest of a second act, losing all momentum it had initially built. It does manage to recapture some of its intensity in the final act, but it also torpedoes itself here with this completely absurd town sequence that had me practically saying, “There's no way that happened in real life” out loud. Not to mention a rather silly epilogue that's only there so we can feel like we “stuck it to the man.”
This may be Scott's best work in recent memory (though if it were me I'd probably still go with Alien: Covenant) but he just can't get out of his own way. In real life, Gail Harris (played beautifully here by Michelle Williams) wages war with her grandfather-in-law in the press. Here, the press is nothing more than a leeching paparazzi group, and we only get one scene in the film of Harris using the press to her advantage. Even in that scene the press is vilified for no real reason other than to be vilified. Ugh! The second act of this film could've been this interesting cat-and-mouse political game between Harris and Getty, but instead we got this slow moving section that doesn't know what to do with itself.
That said, the acting is excellent. Christopher Plummer leads the way with one of the best performances of the year, and when you factor in the fact that his performance was shot in nine days it becomes all the more impressive. Michelle Williams is, once again, great and Mark Wahlberg is pretty good too.... though he admittedly doesn't have much to do other than “be mysterious.” He has one exchange with Getty that was a great scene, but it was CLEARLY a Hollywood-esque scene. Absolutely no chance it really happened. (Like way too much of this film) While it is a pretty enjoyable film, and it will get some love from the Academy, (definitely more so than Downsizing and The Greatest Showman, the other big studio “for your consideration” Oscar films) there's just too many absurd moments for me to consider it a must-watch. And I SWEAR TO GOD IF RIDLEY SCOTT IS NOMINATED FOR BEST DIRECTOR AT THE OSCARS. What are you doing, Golden Globes? Yes, it's impressive that they did these reshoots in nine days, but it doesn't overshadow the other glaring problems of this film. Many of which come at the hands of Ridley Scott! (Deep breath) Anyway..... Watch it if you're a cinephile like me and want to see what a performance shot in nine days looks like, otherwise there are better things to see at the theater.
My Number: 5/10 It's FINE
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