Multi Oscar-winning filmmaker Alexander Payne has opened up about his latest upcoming film Downsizing, likening it to the hit British sci-fi series Black Mirror. Payne, whose body of work consists of dramedy hits such as Sideways, The Descendants and Nebraska, says that while Downsizing doesn’t necessarily exude a sci-fi feel to it, the basis for a sci-fi story – in which an absurd concept is told with complete sincerity – is at the heart of the film.
The film, which has been just over a decade in the making, will mark Payne’s biggest budgeted feature to date, due in large part to the visual effects required to pull off the story of human beings being voluntarily shrunk down to pocket size. An impressive cast is also onboard to tell this tale, including: Matt Damon, Kristen Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Laura Dern (Twin Peaks), Jason Sudeikis and Neil Patrick Harris. The film’s script was co-written with Jim Taylor – Payne’s Oscar-winning screenwriting partner on Sideways.
These new comments from Payne on the makeup and subject matter of Downsizing come courtesy of an interview the director did with EW. In it, Payne touches not just on the Black Mirror connection that the film encompasses, but also the political and environmental issues that it also deals with. Not interested in being pigeonholed into one particular genre or style, Payne instead appears to be interested in working from a mosaic of stylistic elements. Said the filmmaker:
The basic premise is a very delicious one, and it’s the premise that saw Jim and me through the many years to get this made… it’s very much like the previous movie Jim and I did, in that it takes something inherently absurd and ridiculous, but tells it with utter earnestness… 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, and the plot has a certain episodic structure.
Downsizing’s basic premise involves a world of the future, where Norwegian scientists discover a method by which to shrink down human beings to a height of five inches. This, in turn, opens up a greater degree of space in which to live, as well as lessening each individual’s carbon footprint. But while Downsizing has been rumored to deal with current hot-button issues such as global warming and/or immigration, Payne is quick to insist that he isn’t “tackling” anything:
You gotta see the movie, and I wouldn’t be pretentious enough to say it’s tackling immigration. It isn’t tackling anything. It just has presence. It has an element of wit, which, depending upon what’s going on in the zeitgeist, will be more or less salient. Viewers may bring more perspective to the film given recent events, but my process hasn’t changed; the world is just a little bit different right now.
Given Payne’s track record for brilliantly fusing comedy and drama together, Downsizing’s story, concept and especially its cast sound like something that could have Oscar potential. The film won’t open until late December, but there’s sure to be plenty of intrigue in the months leading up to its release. Ten years in the making, Downsizing will finally have its chance to make it big, come this winter.
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