During a Tribeca Film Festival discussion/interview held yesterday, director Alexander Payne described last year’s Downsizing, by any definition a critical and box-office disappointment, as a tough row to hoe.
A 4.28 Indiewire story by Michael Nordine said Payne described the making of the futuristic fantasy as “difficult on every level — writing, financing, editing.” Payne also “addressed the lukewarm reviews it [received after] opening late last year, suggesting that its ambitious narrative may have been too much to fit into the framework of a single film.”
Whatever that means.
If I’d been in Payne’s shoes, I would have just blurted out the following: “I wish it had turned out as well as Election or Sideways or The Descendants, but it didn’t. It hurts but occasional failures are unfortunately part of the commercial filmmaking process, and at a certain point you just have to say ‘okay, fuck it…I liked it but the critics and the public didn’t…next.’
“Downsizing had a killer concept, an excellent first act, and a really great transformation sequence that went over like gangbusters at Cinemacon in March 2017. But the second act wasn’t quite as good, and the third act…all that off-to-Norway, climate-change, methane-gas stuff…really didn’t work and I couldn’t fix it.
“Plus half the audience couldn’t understand Hong Chau. Plus I read somewhere that younger audiences hated it. Obviously I pushed their buttons, just not in a way that I was expecting.
“I probably should have taken Jeffrey Wells’ advice and thrown in some Incredible Shrinking Man stuff. Tiny Matt Damon getting chased by a house cat, getting pecked by birds, coping with cockroaches. The popcorn crowd would’ve gone for that, and Downsizing would’ve probably have made more money if I had. I’m just not low-rent enough. I’m too upmarket in my thinking.”