Alexander Payne's "Downsizing" (out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD) may look like one of his social satires or a new venture into science fiction. The movie, starring Matt Damon and Kristin Wiig, isn't really either of those and maybe that's why it didn't gain much traction with the awards shows or at the box office.
On the surface, it's about a Nebraska couple who decides to shrink themselves to tiny size after Norwegian scientists perfect the problem. Although the original scientific impulse was an effort to save the planet by reducing strain on the environment, millions of people have realized that getting small makes their money stretch a lot further. Struggling middle class families live like multi-millionaires once they move into their tiny planned communities.
Some of this is funny and there's potential for some Westworld-style sci-fi horror revelations. That doesn't happen here. There's some funny riffing on wealth and partying in tiny society, but that's not what's really going on for Payne either.
Actress Hong Chau plays a Vietnamese refugee who was shrunk against her will, lost her leg in a human trafficking operation and now struggles to survive cleaning houses in the small world. Damon meets her and their interactions eventually give his life a sense of meaning.
People who liked Payne's movies "Nebraska and "About Schmidt" will enjoy this if they can get past the sci-fi framing of the story. Fans of "Ex Machina" or "Blade Runner 2049" are going to wonder what all these normal people are doing running around in their futuristic story universe.