Director: Alexander Payne.
I love Payne’s Sideways and have been a fan ever since so upon hearing about his latest piece I was excited. Especially tackling a comical, imaginative and refreshing story. He’s an amazing director that I don’t believe he gets the same recognition as other big named directors get in his field. He’s an two-time Oscar winner with five other nominations and whilst I can’t pinpoint a defining element of his style, there’s something incredibly fresh, contemporary whilst still honing a classic cinematic vibe.
The story starts with Paul, a middle-aged man who decides to downsize himself and join up with the growing community of 5” people living in a supposedly utopia world. Things are certainly not what they seem, certainly a lot smaller, and unfortunately for our little companion, things don’t go as planned for him either. Social history appears to repeat itself with wealth and class division which Paul stumbles across and is faced with a moral dilemma. It pretty much illustrates that no matter how progressive and great an idea might be, there will always be a small part of society that’ll look to take advantage, not all of them being bad mind you.
Paul is obviously out of his depth but this puts him on a journey of even greater discovery when he meets entrepreneur and opportunist Dusan Mirkovic and his Vietnamese cleaner, Ngoc Lan Tran. It’s great discovering this tiny new world with the trio as the story and relationships develops
Damon plays Paul and shows his dramatic comical side well but I do try to imagine how Payne original choice for the role would have done, Paul Giamatti. Waltz play Dusan and he undeniably has the best smile in the business, that grin of his evokes so much more beyond his brilliant diction. But it’s Chau who really stands out here, she’s simply is brilliant. She has most of the best lines especially her brief but brilliant break down of the different fucks western society give. It reminded me so much of Cheech Marin’s sales pitch from Dusk Till Dawn. It’s her portrayal of her interesting character that steals the story away from Paul.
It’s shot and put together well with some amazing photography. The special effects and production as a whole is great, create a believable world and it’s the little touches (pun intended) that provide some of the comedy. Majority of the fun is with the script, glady so. Rolfe Kent cleverly composes quite a mixed score that’s perfectly fitting for each scene. There doesn’t appear to be a continuous theme and but what might make this score recognisable is it’s use of a range of instruments and vocals. Interestingly, I think I hear Tchaikovsky here, possibly his Nutcracker.
It’s certainly more drama with a lot of good emotional context that has these delightful little treats of well-time comedy. However, I had to remind myself at times this is a science fiction satire and struggled not to take it so seriously. This is it’s only really flaw as the ending feels rushed, and whilst there’s some seriousness throughout the story, the end feels slightly off balanced.
Overall it’s a joyful and strangely uplifting film to watch, with humanity under the microscope. And might well be a forgettable role from Damon but not for Chau.
Running Time: 6
The Cast: 8
Job Description: 7
The Extra Bonus Point: 5 for Hong Chau. This is her defining role.