Dave J Hogan
Downsizing may be director Alexander Payne's quirkiest movie yet. It's also been his most mysterious. He's been planning the film for over a decade now, but has continually put it off in favor of other projects. In fact, back in 2011, before he started work on it, he called the film his "epic masterpiece." All this without actually explaining much of what its about.
Finally, he's opened up to Entertainment Weekly about what to expect and confirms, yes, this is a serious movie about how Matt Damon shrinks himself down to a hamster-sized man. Though, it's nothing like Honey, I Shrunk The Kids.
"Downsizing imagines what might happen if overpopulation and climate change [prompt] Norwegian scientists to discover how to shrink people down to five inches tall and propose, very earnestly, the population’s two-to-three-hundred-year transition from big to small," he tells the magazine.
While it sounds like the film could be either overly political or overly silly, Payne is quick to confirm that it's not meant to be too dissimilar from his previous work and is firmly planted in its human nature.
"It takes something inherently absurd and ridiculous, but tells it with utter earnestness," he says. "Kind of like what you see in Black Mirror. Some episodes of Black Mirror take a premise and run with it, but I’m not interested in the science fiction feeling; I always aspire to make a Hal Ashby or a Robert Altman movie."
The film also include threads that touch on hot button issues like immigration and environmentalism, but that he doesn't purport to really solve the question either.
Though, while it's not explicitly stated, it does seem safe to say that the main thrust of the movie focuses on Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig as a married couple at least investigating the decision of shrinking themselves (reports from eight years ago indicate that Reese Witherspoon and Paul Giamatti were originally rumored as the main married couple).
A who's who of both serious award winning and nominated-type actors and some of your favorite comedy stars also pop up in the film. Christoph Waltz, Laura Dern, and Margo Martindale head up one faction of the cast, while Neil Patrick Harris, Jason Sudeikis, and two Reno 911 stars in the form of Niecy Nash and Kerrie Kenny head up the comedy side of the supporting cast.
That's certainly an intriguing group of talent, and at the very least, everything Laura Dern has been in this year has been amazing. (Though, we should note to all the many Dern-heads out there, Payne says his reunion with his Citizen Ruth star amounts to a cameo.)
The film is set for its premiere at the Venice Film Festival in late August and for wider release on December 22, just in the nick of time for Oscars contention. And it will be very much in discussion during awards season. Payne is one of the Academy's favorite directors, and each and everyone of his films since 1998's Election have picked up at least one nomination.
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