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A Day at The Movies

One thing that we enjoy doing over the holidays is going to the movies and one of the films that we saw was "Downsizing" which featured a scene-stealing performance by Ms. Hong Chau, whose own story is quite interesting.

According to articles that have been written about her and interviews that she has given, Ms. Chau's parents fled Vietnam as part of the boat people exodus of 1979 when her mother was six months pregnant so Ms. Chau was ultimately born in a refugee camp in Thailand. 

Fortunately, her family obtained sponsors which enabled them to come to the United States as refugees where they settled in New Orleans. As is often the case with immigrant/refugee families, her parents worked at humble jobs in order to provide for the future of their children. 

Due to hard work by all and constructive forms of public assistance such as Pell Grants, Ms. Chau was able to attend Boston University where she majored in film studies and obtained a job with PBS after she graduated. She always enjoyed acting, though, and was eventually cast in several roles both on television and in motion pictures.

All of this lead to her being cast in "Downsizing" which can best be described as a fantasy film with a social conscience that depicts a future in which it is possible for people to be shrunk to five inches and live in scattered colonies where their currencies go a lot further ($125,000 in our world is millions of dollars for the downsized) and the amount of waste generated is incomparably less.

As advertised by its promoters, the downsized can now enjoy an almost Utopian existence of living in deluxe mansions, shopping, and partying which supposedly is the key to happiness.

But this is not the case for our everyman hero played by Mr. Matt Damon who soon grows weary of the material decadence and regrets his decision to downsize particularly since it has cost him his marriage (his wife decided against the downsizing process at the very last minute without his knowledge) and yearns for a life of purpose.

It is at this point Ms. Chau makes her entrance and takes over the film playing a Southeast Asian dissident who was imprisoned in her native land and downsized against her will. Along with a few others, she escapes in a box that was transported to the U.S. Although, her companions perish in the attempt she manages to survive albeit with the loss of a leg.

Some have criticized Ms. Chau's performance (although she is up for a Golden Globe and other prizes for her acting) as being too stereotypical Asian (high energy, fast-talking and quite blunt) but we believe that her interpretation of this role is exactly what is called for in the context of this film. Anyone who questions her acting abilities should go to YouTube and view her interview with Seth Meyers as evidence of what a stretch this character was for her.

Of course, Ms. Chau connects with Mr. Damon who offers to help her and is soon introduced to the downside of downsizing in the form of an underground economy not that much different from our own in which the less fortunate downsized people (mostly immigrants and refugees) perform low-status tasks for the affluent.

We don't want to give more away, but in the course of the film Mr. Damon learns through Ms. Chau how meaningful service to one's community, or adopted community, can provide a person spiritual peace and contentment-downsized or not, financially prosperous or not.

To be sure, "Downsized" is not a perfect film. We have seen other films this year that we enjoyed even more but it is nevertheless worth seeing for its message and its introduction to Ms. Hong Chau who we hope to see more of in years forthcoming.  


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC






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