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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ngoc Lan Tran
A Vietnamese woman wearing a cap and with her left leg missing below the knee sits in a chair with wooden crutches next to her.
Created by
Portrayed byHong Chau
FilmDownsizing (2017)
OccupationPolitical activist

Ngoc Lan Tran (Vietnamese: Trần Ngọc Lan) is a fictional character that appears in the 2017 American film Downsizing and is played by actress Hong Chau. In the satire film, Tran is a supporting character and a Vietnamese political activist who is jailed and "downsized" (shrunken to five inches, or 12.7 cm, tall) by her country. In the process of escaping her country, she loses her left leg below the knee. The film was directed by Alexander Payne, who wrote the screenplay with Jim Taylor. Chau's performance was widely recognized as a standout. Several critics complained that the role was an Asian caricature with the performance involving a heavy Vietnamese accent and broken English. Chau defended the portrayal and considered her character to be more layered. For her performance, she was nominated for several awards for best supporting actress.

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  • ✪ Downsizing: Hong Chau "Ngoc Lan Tran" Official Movie Interview
  • ✪ Downsizing | HD Movie Clip | Paul Meets Ngoc Lan Tran | Matt Damon, Hong Chau
  • ✪ Hong Chau: The Breakout Star of 'Downsizing'
  • ✪ Downsizing | On-set visit with Hong Chau "Ngoc Lan"
  • ✪ Downsizing Clip || Butterflies || SocialNews.XYZ



Fictional appearance

In Downsizing, Ngoc Lan Tran is a Vietnamese political activist who is jailed by her government and is "downsized" to a height of five inches. She and others attempt to smuggle themselves into the United States in a television box, but she becomes the sole survivor of the effort, losing her left leg below the knee. She becomes a house cleaner in Leisureland, and the film's protagonist Paul Safranek notices her and tries to help her with her prosthetic leg.[1]

Casting and preparation

Hong Chau read that director Alexander Payne was developing a sci-fi satire, and since she had seen all of the director's films, she asked her manager for a copy of the script before knowing there was an Asian female role in the film. Chau submitted an audition tape, which the director received. They both met to discuss the role, and while the filmmakers conducted an international casting search, they ultimately cast Chau.[2] Chau, who is of Vietnamese descent but grew up in the United States, worked on her character's accent by drawing from her personal experience with family members having been first-generation immigrants in the country.[3] Chau also modeled her character after the writer Flannery O'Connor and the Honduran environmental activist Berta Cáceres.[2] She also drew inspiration from Akira Kurosawa's 1965 film Red Beard, which features a town doctor and his intern.[4]

Chau also sought to portray the amputee character authentically by working with an amputee consultant based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The consultant, who was an amputee like the written character, showed her around a rehabilitation center where she and other amputees had gone through rehab.[3] She also practiced how to walk as if she had a prosthetic leg, and later a pegleg.[5]

The actress said the director offered to let Chau change the character's name, but she declined, finding that past Asian characters had names easy for Americans to pronounce.[6]

Critical reception

Downsizing received "generally favorable reviews", according to the review aggregator website Metacritic, which scored the film 63 out of 100. It sampled 45 critics and identified 24 reviews as positive, 19 as mixed, and 3 as negative.[7] Among the positive reviews, The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday said Chau's performance was "spiky, endearing, bracingly direct and touchingly expressive".[8] Alonso Duralde of TheWrap said, "If there's a standout here, it's Chau, taking a character who could easily have been a saintly martyr and making her funny, bristly, moving and occasionally profane."[9] Richard Roeper, reviewing for the Chicago Sun-Times, said, "Hong Chau is brilliant as the fiery and funny and fantastically blunt Ngoc Lan."[10] Moira Macdonald of The Seattle Times called Chau's performance "wickedly supersized".[11]

Among the mixed reviews, The Atlantic's David Sims said, "Chau's performance is energetic and heartfelt, but Ngoc Lan Tran seems to exist only to help Paul realize a truth about himself: He's not going to better himself simply by fleeing to a packaged 'perfect community,' and he needs to recognize the good in him to finally feel comfortable about his place in the world."[12] Time Out's Joshua Rothkopf said, "The introduction of a cringeworthy Vietnamese cleaning woman and ex-dissident (Inherent Vice's Hong Chau) borders on broken-English caricature."[13] Emily Yoshida, writing for New York magazine's blog Vulture, said, "There’s been some divided criticism over Chau's performance, which uses a heavy accent, but is also easily the most interesting and vibrant of the entire cast’s. Ngoc Lan is operating from an entire different scale of human experience than Paul, whose greatest struggle prior to going small was that he and his wife couldn’t afford a bigger house. But Chau does her best to find interesting nooks in the borderline saintly character Payne has written — Ngoc Lan is more than a little abrasive and unsentimental, which is the only redeeming aspect of her and Paul’s wholly unnecessary romance."[14] Vox's Alissa Wilkinson said, "Since Downsizing's festival run, there's been criticism of Chau's character, who has a heavy accent that is played (quite a lot) for laughs." Wilkinson said Damon's character was "not a terribly compelling or interesting person" especially next to "Chau's character, who is a pragmatic spitfire" and Waltz's character.[15]

Among the negative reviews,'s Sheila O'Malley found there to be "a lot of problems" with the story and said, "Because Ngoc Lan is such a strong character, and Chau is so funny and strident and bossy, she takes over the entire film." O'Malley found most side characters, including Ngoc Lan, to be characters "more interesting and fleshed-out" than Damon's main character.[16]

Portrayal of Asian role

Following early screenings, several critics and audience members criticized the character Ngoc Lan Tran as an Asian caricature, with the role involving a heavy Vietnamese accent and dialogue in broken English,[17] a reaction that director Alexander Payne and distributor Paramount Pictures did not anticipate since it did not surface during preview screenings.[18] The Guardian said the character's accent and dialogue were "milked repeatedly for laughs", and ScreenCrush called the role an "icky, racist caricature".[19] The Independent reported, "Some critics... have focused on her accent, claiming her broken English is nothing short of mockery."[4] The Los Angeles Times said, "The character has also faced scrutiny from critics over the heavily accented broken English she speaks in a cadence that some say veers into stereotype before the script—and Chau's layered, dimensional performance—makes her a hero."[6]

Throughout 2017, Chau was asked repeatedly about the criticism.[3] A website reported that she was "steadfastly defending the character from what she felt was misplaced criticism regarding the tastefulness of her portrayal".[20] She called the questions about her character's accent "dehumanizing" and said, "When I look at my parents I don't see a stereotype."[4] She described her character as "so multifaceted and complex and well-written" and said the criticism was solely based on her character's accent.[6] She later added, "I didn't want the accent to be the thing people take away most from this movie. I wanted them to really see this woman. I wanted them to feel her heartbeat." The New York Times said many reviewers agreed with her perspective and that the plaudits found her performance likely to result in an Academy Award nomination.[17] In January 2018, Chau said,

With the Vietnamese accent, it's usually because we tend to have service-oriented occupations. That brings up the race and class issue and inequality and discrimination. That's a lot to unpack, so it's not just about an accent being problematic. My character, and other minority characters in this story, are not there to prop up the white, male character and show him in this great, positive light. If anything, we're showing that he's part of the problem because he's not paying attention. I don't see anything wrong with that.[21]

Salon's John Semley wrote, "What the reaction to Downsizing['s Asian character] suggests are the real-world growing pains that accompany North America's increasing reliance on the arrival of non-European immigrants." Semley highlighted a 2010 study that showed that participants found statements with "heavy Middle Eastern, European or Asian accents" were less truthful than those from native English speakers. He said, "It seems reasonable enough to believe that viewers calling out Alexander Payne, or Thai-Vietnamese actress Hong Chau herself, as troubling or in poor taste are in fact dealing with their own built-in cognitive mis-recognition, as they struggle with internalized accent discrimination."[22]

Tran is depicted as Christian, despite 85% of Vietnamese people practicing Buddhism and less than 7% of them practicing Christianity. Bright Lights Film Journal's Malcolm Alsett said Downsizing "has a Christian message of goodness" and criticized the Christian depiction of Tran, "Yes, a broader American audience gets to perceive her actions in a way they can identify with as churchgoers. Unfortunately, it aids the persistence of a construct of goodness and social responsibility being the sole domain of Christianity, the font of all that is moral and ethical according to many Westerners."[23]

Performance recognition

Hong Chau was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and for a Screen Actors Guild Award for best supporting female actor.[18] Vanity Fair wrote, "Chau steals every scene away from Damon and her other starry co-stars, including Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, and Laura Dern."[24]


  1. ^ Alexander Payne (director) (2017). Downsizing (film). United States: Paramount Pictures.
  2. ^ a b Kachka, Boris (December 12, 2017). "Downsizing's Hong Chau Is Sick of Talking About That Accent". Vulture. New York. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Erbland, Kate (December 21, 2017). "'Downsizing' Breakout Hong Chau On Her Controversial Accent and Playing a Disabled Character Respectfully". IndieWire. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Mottram, James (January 17, 2018). "Downsizing's Hong Chau on director Alexander Payne, Big Little Lies and roles for Asian people". The Independent. Retrieved January 17, 2018.
  5. ^ Zwecker, Bill (December 20, 2017). "'Downsizing' star Hong Chau loves Chicago's bunny culture". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Yamato, Jen (November 3, 2017). "Hong Chau is poised to break big in 'Downsizing,' her second film". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  7. ^ "Downsizing Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  8. ^ Hornaday, Ann (December 21, 2017). "In 'Downsizing,' a parable for the anxieties of our age, in miniature". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  9. ^ Duralde, Alfonso (December 18, 2017). "'Downsizing' Review: Matt Damon Is the Incredible Shrinking Everyman". TheWrap. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  10. ^ Roeper, Richard (December 21, 2017). "Intriguing 'Downsizing' uses smaller people to explain bigger ideas". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  11. ^ Macdonald, Moira (December 18, 2017). "'Downsizing': A creative solution to overpopulation". The Seattle Times. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  12. ^ Sims, David (December 22, 2017). "Downsizing Has Big Ambitions but Little Payoff". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  13. ^ Rothkopf, Joshua. "September 1, 2017". Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  14. ^ Yoshida, Emily (December 19, 2017). "Downsizing Is a Boldly Executed Sci-Fi That Trips Over Its Own Modesty". Vulture. New York. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  15. ^ Wilkinson, Alissa (December 21, 2017). "Downsizing is an audacious but uneven sci-fi fable about an impending environmental apocalypse". Vox. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  16. ^ O'Malley, Sheila (December 22, 2017). "Downsizing Movie Review & Film Summary (2017)". Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  17. ^ a b Fretts, Bruce (December 25, 2017). "'Downsizing' Actress Breaks Through, for Better and Worse". The New York Times. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  18. ^ a b Thompson, Anne (December 25, 2017). "'Downsizing': What Went Wrong with Alexander Payne's Social Satire". Thompson on Hollywood. IndieWire. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  19. ^ Ryan, Patrick (December 21, 2017). "Awards breakout Hong Chau brings her personal history as a refugee to 'Downsizing'". USA Today. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  20. ^ Dominguez, Noah (January 11, 2019). "Watchmen: Downsizing Star Playing Brand New Character". Comic Book Resources. Retrieved January 14, 2019.
  21. ^ Dawson, Angela (January 5, 2018). "Downsizing star Hong Chau responds to criticism of her character's Vietnamese accent". Southeast Asia Globe. Retrieved January 10, 2018.
  22. ^ Semley, John (December 12, 2017). "Claims of racism dog a Golden Globe-nominated performance, revealing the bias of the accusers". Salon. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  23. ^ Alsett, Malcolm (February 2, 2019). "'Downsizing' Liberal Hollywood: How the Film's Christian Message Undermines Arguments for National Health Care". Bright Lights Film Journal. Retrieved March 23, 2019.
  24. ^ Chi, Paul (December 19, 2017). "Downsizing's Hong Chau Knows the Secret to Getting Through Awards Season". Vanity Fair. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
This page was last edited on 25 March 2019, at 00:16
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