Reese Witherspoon Reunites With Election Director Alexander Payne for Downsizing

By  · Published on January 8th, 2015

Paramount Pictures

More than 15 years ago, Reese Witherspoon gave her first really impressive performance as an ambitious, overachieving high school student in the indie comedy Election. She’d shown talent before then, but this was the moment we knew she would grow as an actress as she aged further into adulthood (she was 22 at the time, playing a teenager). Later came Legally Blonde and cemented her as a movie star, one who would go on to additional rom-com fluff like Sweet Home Alabama while only occasionally mixing in more substantial fare – enough to win an Oscar in 2005 for Walk the Line, at least. Now she appears to be focused on the latter in what some have called a career resurrection or (to borrow an idea from her Mud co-star) “Reese-enaissance” or (via the Fighting in the War Room podcast) “Reese-urgence.” And with this new era comes a reunion with her Election director, Alexander Payne.

According to Deadline, Witherspoon, who is likely to earn an Oscar nomination for Wild later this month (she’s already up for the Golden Globe and SAG Award), is set to join Matt Damon in Downsizing, a movie also reuniting her and Payne with screenwriter Jim Taylor. He’d collaborated with the director on every one of his movies from Citizen Ruth in 1996 to Sideways in 2004, the latter winning them both an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay, but he’s been absent from Payne’s last few (Downsizing has been in development for a long time, so they likely worked together on it a decade ago). Speaking of Citizen Ruth, I like to think that Witherspoon and Laura Dern chatted about their experiences working for Payne while making Wild and that’s what gave the younger actress the itch to do it again. Now they need to also bring on Dern, whose last work in something written by Payne and Taylor was Jurassic Park III.

There’s no details at Deadline on whom Witherspoon is playing, but it’s presumably the same role she was signed on for in 2009, when she was to star opposite Sideways star Paul Giamatti along with Sacha Baron Cohen. Yeah, she had the itch before but it didn’t pan out. Now Damon has taken over for Giamatti as a financially struggling man who decides to shrink himself through a process that’s apparently common in Downsizing’s world. Witherspoon will play the normal-sized love interest, whom Damon’s character meets after going small (or is already married to, depending on where you find a plot synopsis). Hopefully that description is putting the part in basic terms and it’s not just a romantic role in support of the male lead. She’s proving herself better than that, even while playing brief “girlfriend parts” in Mud and Inherent Vice where she shines more than such a label would seem to call for.

And hopefully she’ll get to stick around this time, if so. There’s no timeframe for when Downsizing will be made other than it has to wait for Damon to shoot the next Bourne movie. Maybe if they turned it into an Ant-Man sequel it would become more of a priority.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.