UPDATED with press conference details: Alexander Payne’s Downsizing splashed onto the Lido this morning as the Venice Film Festival gets underway. The sci-fi comedy was met with applause at the first press screening inside a jammed Sala Darsena — and the laughs were hearty from the international audience for what is a satire that poses big questions while relating on a very human level. Initial reviews this morning are highly positive, and in the wake of the screening here, Paramount dropped the first teaser (check it out above).
The film takes the premise of how much better our lives could be if we were to miniaturize (think dollhouse mansions, conflict-free diamonds for a couple of dollars) and sets it within the context of being a solution to overpopulation and climate change.
The smart adult comedy is Payne’s most ambitious work to date in terms of its scope and the use of visual effects which transform Matt Damon and others into folks five inches tall. The big picture question hovers over the future of the planet, woven in with a human and personal story that charts the characters’ journeys. The movie also incorporates several languages and locations.
Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau, Udo Kier and Kristen Wiig also star. Waltz is earning particular praise for his turn as a Serbian playboy/heavy who runs Cuban cigars, alcohol and more luxuries into the small world’s primo destination, Leisureland, and other global communities.
Payne told the press in Venice today that even though Downsizing incorporates science fiction and is told on a larger canvas, he and frequent writing collaborator Jim Taylor think it’s “the same tone as our previous films.”
In regard to the end-of-days looming in the movie, Payne said it was “optimistic about certain things and pessimistic about certain things.”
Asked how “people who voted for Donald Trump” would respond to the film given its climate change aspect, Payne would not be led. “It’s difficult to predict how anyone will view your film. How’s that for a vague answer?,” he offered.
Speaking of his role as the everyman whose life changes so drastically, Damon said, “I love that it shows a relatable character whose life is different than our own but who we can find a common cause with.”
Paramount has a December 22 domestic release set, with some offshore markets beginning rollout simultaneously.