The science fiction narrative strategy that brings the machine to shrinking is back with Little Big Life, a film directed by Alexander Payne – a filmmaker who manages to capture the finer details of the human relationship in his productions. In The Descendants, for example, comically and dramatically showed difficult secrets that appear when Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) falls into a coma after suffering an accident and Matt King (George Clooney) tries to take care of his beloved wife.
In Little Life, however, science fiction enters the dynamics of comedy and drama in a somewhat artificial way. It is not that the idea itself is, or needs to be, realistic. Let’s remember how Sweetheart, I Shrunk the Children, 1989, or Ant-Man, 2015, there is nothing real. But this was the point of these titles: the discovery of new worlds where we are reintroduced to previously familiar objects, such as ants or cells, in a new and fun way.
Payne’s film does not try to show us a new world to be discovered. On the contrary, the director shows how life, desires and human relations remain very similar to the present even when an invention of these is introduced by science. The purpose of this is the creation, according to the director himself, of a metaphor of the present world since, in reality, “we are already small in front of the universe”.
The artificiality of the feature begins from then on. If we are tiny in front of the universe, we are not in relation to other living beings. The attempt to show a world where relationships between humans remain static even after the shrinking of people is seen as something normal does not let the film develop to its full potential. The metaphor, then, does not bring the seriousness that the film seems to try to communicate.
And it is precisely for this reason that it is the most comical parts of the movie that work. The very beginning of the plot is effective by the use of comedy. The plot, which takes place in the not too distant future, shows human life after European scientists invent the machine of shrinkage. Being small takes up less space, and as the world has been facing an economic catastrophe, many soon decide to shrink, living in houses no larger than a doll’s house, but which, relatively, look like mansions. So shrunken women who like jewelry can buy huge diamonds, since the tiny real size makes everything cheaper. It’s food? A cookie can last for years.
The comedy itself begins when the couple Paul (Matt Damon) and Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to shrink to live more comfortable. However, Audrey gives up at the last moment, unable to warn Paul, who is shrunk. Thus, in a traumatic way, their married life ends, with Paul having to adapt to the new and strange environment.
It is also like comedy scenes of Thai actress Hong Chau, playing Ngoc Lan Tran, come to life. And it is because of this that the drama of the story, appearing counterpoint to the comedy, manages to develop into thrilling scenes, dramatic strategies that are very characteristic of Alexander Payne. But while it is interesting to think of the part of the science fiction of the film, especially in relation to what would happen to humanity if the machine of shrinkage were invented, the genre does not develop organically or naturally. Little Great Life begins well, but gets lost in the metaphor not very clear.
(This article original language is portuguese. This translation was made with Google Translate)