Thursday, November 08, 2018

It's a Small World After All

It was still sunny this morning when I rolled out of bed (later than I planned). It was too late to start writing, so I ate breakfast, then made Cranberry "Old School" Muffins from an Alton Brown recipe. Ran the Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy version of Rose Marie while I ate and baked. I go into more detail on that one at my Musical Dreams Reviews blog.

Rose Marie (1936)

Headed off to work even before the movie ended. I wish I hadn't. The Acme was crazy-busy for most of the afternoon. Most kids get off early today and tomorrow for the New Jersey Teachers Convention...which means their parents likely got off early, too. That coupled with the free coupons and a lack of help (everyone was fine - the computer just didn't assign us enough help) meant that while I did manage to get some carts done when I came in and the inside trash done before I left, I was mostly panicking in a register. (And we were short on bagging help, too. The head bagger had a death in the family and left early.)

Went straight home from work, but things didn't go much better there. My computer was running slow, and I didn't really get to much writing. I did manage to post a few things, though. I wrote I Dance Alone ages ago, probably around 2002-2004. It's based after a real-life incident when I went to my first boy-girl party as a kid in the late 80's and ended up dancing by myself. I also posted an essay I wrote for the Heilum Network in 2012 about what dinner was like in my family in the 80's and 90's.

I Dance Alone
Family Dinners

Watched the rest of Rose Marie while eating a quick leftovers dinner. Did Downsizing after a shower. In the near future, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and his wife Audrey (Kristin Wiig) volunteer for a procedure that'll shrink them to five inches tall. Not only will they shrink, but they'll be able to live in a town for people who were previously shrunk...and money that would have been meager at regular size is inflated to millions in the mini-town. Paul's all for it, but Audrey panics at the last moment and backs out. Their costly divorce lands him in a much smaller apartment and a bad job. He regrets his decision to shrink his life until he meets Ngoc Lan Tran (Hong Chau), a cleaning woman who works for shrunken people in the neglected slums outside his town. He tries to help her make a better prosthetic foot, but breaks it and ends up helping her distribute food to the needy people of the slums instead.

A friend of Paul's (Christoph Waltz) agrees to take him and Ngoc to Norway to meet Dr. Jorgen Asbjornsen, the creator of the downsizing formula and the head of the first mini town. He insists that humanity is doomed, no matter what size they are, and will take his community deep inside the earth to avoid extinction. Paul has to decide if he agrees with Jorgen and wants to leave the world all together...or if Ngoc is right and humanity can be saved.

It starts out with the unusual premise of shrinking people to escape their problems, but it doesn't really follow through with it's intentions. The second half loses focus; the story of Ngoc and the Norwegian colony that wants to avoid tragedy probably would have played the same way whether the actors were big or small. Damon's not bad as the man who just wants to do something important with his life, but it's Chau who steals the show as the woman who, despite her amputation and the loss of her home and family, already knows how to make a difference. Not to mention, this movie has no idea what it wants to be. It starts out as an ironic comedy, swings to stark drama when Ngoc comes in, and ends up as science fiction.

This was a flop when it came out last December; it just wasn't big enough to compete with The Last Jedi or Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. While it was popular with many critics, most audiences weren't as amused. I'm afraid I'm going to side with them. This is all right if you're a fan of the cast, unusual sci-fi, or of director Alexander Payne's other films. For everyone else, it's a rental at best.

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