With today’s announcement that Alexander Payne’s Downsizing will open the 2017 Venice International Film Festival on 8.30, there’s a 95% chance that Payne and his cast (Matt Damon, Kirsten Wiig, Laura Dern, Christoph Waltz, Jason Sudeikis) will fly to the Telluride Film Festival a day or two later. In my recently posted Telluride spitball piece, I wrote that Downsizing looked like a nope — “Too late in the year, too much FX tweaking, too much finessing and re-editing.” And I was wrong. That happens from time to time.
After watching several minutes of footage from Downsizing last March at Cinemacon, I wrote that “the undercurrent felt a teeny bit spooky, like a futuristic social melodrama in the vein of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
“In its matter-of-fact portrait of middle-class Americans willing to shrink themselves down to the size of a pinkie finger in order to reap economic advantages, Downsizing doesn’t appear to be the sort of film that will instill euphoric feelings among Average Joes. It struck me as a reimagining of mass man as mass mice — a portrait of little people buying into a scheme that’s intended to make their lives better but in fact only makes them…smaller. A bit like Trump voters suddenly realizing that their lot isn’t going to improve and may even get worse.
“A day after the Downsizing presentation I was chatting with a bespectacled heavy-set female who works, she said, for an Arizona exhibitor (or some exhibition-related business) in some executive capacity. She struck me as a conservative, perhaps one who processes things in simplistic “like/no like” terms, definitely not a Susan Sontag brainiac.
“I told her that I thought Downsizing was brilliant and asked what she thought of it. Her response: ‘I don’t know what I think of it.’
“HE translation: ‘No offense but I don’t want to spill my mixed feelings with some Los Angeles journalist I’ve just met. I didn’t like the chilly feeling underneath it. It didn’t make me feel good. My heart wasn’t warmed by the idea of working people shrinking themselves down so they can live a more lavish lifestyle. I have to work really hard at my job and watch my spending and build up my IRA, and I didn’t appreciate the notion that I’m just a little struggling hamster on a spinning wheel.’
“Again — my initial reaction to the footage.”