Wes Anderson is one of Hollywood’s leading auteurs with his eccentrically stylized films and colorful cast of characters. His unique flavor isn’t for everyone, but for those it resonates with his films are often considered masterpieces. Asteroid City is no exception. Love or hate him, the quirky alien adventure won’t sway your mind either way. I enjoyed the world building surrounding the fictional small town of Asteroid City but found the framing of it all to be a little too pretentious for my taste. The entire film is pure Wes Anderson, for better or worse.
Junior stargazers from around the country descend upon Asteroid City for a space convention when an unexpected guest arrives, forcing them all into quarantine. While the government sorts out this apparent alien invasion, families and lives become intertwined as adults and children are forced to make due in this little rural town. Suddenly their problems don’t seem so big when compared to the vastness of the universe.
Just look at the poster or watch the trailer and you’ll see a long list of actors who star in Asteroid City, most of whom have already appeared in his previous work. Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie; the film is venerable who’s who of Hollywood. The main focus of the film is on war photographer Augie Steenbeck (Schwartzman) and his stargazer son Woodrow (Jake Ryan), but Anderson does a phenomenal job at putting everyone in the spotlight. Every character feels fleshed out and real, at least, as real according to Wes Anderson’s standards. Everyone has a quirk to them. Everyone is a little bit awkward or stiff. It’s part of his directing charm.
And honestly he makes it work for the look and feel of the fictional town. The design pops off the screen. Asteroid City may be my favorite looking film of Anderson’s. While I’m not his biggest fan, I can admit that all his films have a certain cinematography and production that looks spectacular. Where the film loses me is when the lights go down and the screen turns to black-and-white as Bryan Cranston, a television host, recalls the life of playwright Conrad Earp, the writer responsible for creating the play Asteroid City. So the film is essentially a reenactment of said play. A lot of conclusions can be made comparing Anderson himself to Conrad Earp, and the whole play within a play framing lends itself to a few interesting moments, but overall I found the two separate storylines to be tiresome. I was more engaged with the color world of Asteroid City so whenever they would cut away to Earp’s story I would lose interest.
Asteroid City has a lot going on, and the more a Wes Anderson fan you are the more you will enjoy it. The film won’t win over any new converts, but for those who are already invested in the director, you’re in for an out of this world treat.
I enjoyed the world building surrounding the fictional small town of Asteroid City but found the framing of it all to be a little too pretentious for my taste. The entire film is pure Wes Anderson, for better or worse.