Venice Film Fest 2017: Payne’s Downsizing–Preview

The 2017 Venice Film Fest kicks off this Wed, August 30, with the world premiere of Alexander Payne’s Downsizing.

Downsizing is Payne’s first foray into the science-fiction genre, and a follow-up to his Oscar nominated “Nebraska.”

In the past, Payne, the Oscar-winning director of the 2004 Sideways and the 2011 The Descendants, has specialized in portraits of Midwesterners, as was manifest in About Schmidt and Nebraska.

At 56, Payne has a small but distinguished body of work.  Over the past two decades, he has directed less than ten films, but wrote and/or produced other features.

Each of his films, with a notable exception of his first one, Citizen Ruth (a vastly underestimated work), has been acclaimed by critics and Oscar voters. 

In his best work, he has chronicled the daily lives of American citizens seldom seen in mainstream Hollywood.  Utilizing a darkly humorous, his features are defined by delicate satirical tone, delving into the quiet desperation that lies behind their external (seemingly calm and stoid) facade.

Those in favor of high concept have described his new movie, “Downsizing,”  as “Honey I Shrunk the Kids with a social message.”

In March, Payne brought some footage from the film to CinemaCon, where it was screened as part of Paramount’s presentation of its slate to theater owners.

There have been major change in the film’s casting: Originally the major female part was to be played by Reese Witherspoon, who scored big in Payne’s 1999 satire, “Election,” and Paul Giamatti, who excelled in “Sideways.” 

Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig play  a lower middle class couple who shrink themselves in size. It’s part of a radical new surgery cooked up by a Norwegian scientist (Christoph Waltz) to conserve resources and make people live luxuriously on a budget.

The couple, whose savings account amounts to $150,000, is told that they can become more prosperous and happier if they undergo a radical physical transformation–shrinking.

Laura Dern, who had appeared in Payne’s first film, “Citizen Ruth,” is also a member of the ensemble. She is seen in the footage wearing pearls while sipping champagne in a bubble bath, while chatting about the joys of playing tennis and getting massages.

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