Director and co-writer Alexander Payne gets Matt Damon to go full Everyman as Paul Safranek, a middle-aged, lower-middle-class white guy who’s rightly worried about the future: the world’s, sure, but mostly his own, which looks pretty bleak, at least by American Dream standards. When he starts hearing about the economic benefits reaped by downsizing — i.e., getting yourself shrunk down to a few inches tall via a remarkable scientific process — he decides to think small and start a new, more sustainable, and much more comfortable life. Alas for him, it turns out that people are the same whatever their size, the world is always ending, and doing the right thing for the wrong reasons doesn’t really help matters much. Payne’s brand of prickly humanism is on full display here; he seems to revel is the notion that it’s only when we’re uncomfortable that we have any chance at being good. That attitude is personified in Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a hobbled Vietnamese political dissident who grates against all sorts of polite sensibilities as she goes about making the world a better place. Payne dares you to despise her despite her decency, then complicates matters by making the alternatives on display even more intolerable. (2017) — Matthew Lickona
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