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Alexander Payne’s ‘Downsizing’ to Open Venice Film Festival (EXCLUSIVE)

Alexander Payne’s “Downsizing” will open this year’s Venice International Film Festival, Variety has learned. That coveted berth, on Aug. 30 against the unmistakable backdrop of Italy’s historic canals, puts the Paramount release at the top of this year’s buzziest offerings in the 2017 Oscars race.

The dark comedy centers on a man (played by Matt Damon) who wonders what his life would be like if he shrank himself. Laura Dern, Kirsten Wiig, Christoph Waltz, Hong Chau and Jason Sudeikis round out the cast.

Venice has become a strong launching pad for awards season contenders. Last year, Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” premiered there on its way to Telluride, Toronto and 14 Oscar nominations. And in the last five years, two other Academy Awards Best Picture favorites –“Birdman,” in 2014, and “Gravity,” in 2013 — bowed in Venice.

Payne is no stranger to the awards season circuit, as he’s made comedy-dramas “Nebraska,” “About Schmidt” and “Sideways,” all of which received several Oscars nominations.

Downsizing” arrives in U.S. theaters in limited release on Dec. 22.

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