Asteroid City is Wes Anderson’s new work of art, requiring you to pay even more attention than with his previous works. Fortunately, the film’s story is presented by an army of brilliant actors, which does require you as a viewer to pay attention.
The victory march of Wes Anderson
These days, everyone on TikTok thinks they can copy Wes Anderson’s signature style one-to-one with a simple filter. Asteroid City, the director’s latest film, pushes audiences to their limits. It’s not that easy to make a film like this. Top actors know that too, which is why they are lining up to join Anderson’s project. Even if it’s just a small role. The budgets of his films are therefore not too high, while they are all masterpieces if we consider only the visual aspect. This started back in 1998 with Rushmore, after which Anderson began a gigantic victory lap.
For me personally, among all the films he made in the interim, there were very few that didn’t manage to touch me. A film like The French Dispatch was slightly less up my alley than The Grand Budapest Hotel or Moonrise Kingdom, but was still a delight. With that, Asteroid City is actually a similar film, somewhat reminiscent of The French Dispatch also in terms of the structure of the story. With that, I can already give away right away that Asteroid City is not my favorite Wes Anderson film in terms of story, but in terms of humor and acting, it comes close to that.
Is not about Asteroid City
Asteroid City is a true meta film that deals with two stories, running parallel to each other. This makes it a bit confusing for the unwary viewer. If you have only seen the trailer, you would think that the film is about a story set in Asteroid City. This is a town in the middle of the desert, where visitors to a convention in the 1950s get trapped after a shocking incident.
This story is just not the one that actually happened, but the one told in a play by Conrad Earp (Edward Norton). Earp is a writer of these kinds of plays. A great figure within this little world, but at the same time a complicated person. This part of the story is actually the most important, while the main focus is on the play set in the Asteroid City play. These stories are told simultaneously throughout the film, so I can imagine it may not be easy for everyone to follow. Even though the film is only 1 hour and 44 minutes long, you have to try hard to keep your attention.
I mentioned a moment ago the star-studded cast, which joins a Wes Anderson project largely by choice. This time is no different. Norton is surrounded by old and new faces such as Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson. Furthermore, I took a closer look, but Bill Murray is really missing from Anderson’s latest work.
One of the main characters wandering around the village of Asteroid City is Augie Steenbeck, played by Jason Schwartzman. At the same time, Anderson’s companion, who has also appeared in numerous other works by the director, plays the character Jones Hall, a local actor. It is extraordinary anyway how many of the film’s actors play two characters, but Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson in particular manage to excel on the big screen. Not only because of the two characters they both take on, but also the hearty dose of unexpected humor they often manage to subtly deliver.
Indeed, Asteroid City is an incredibly funny film, despite dark edges in colorful settings. Although one of the themes of the story is coping with grief, Anderson still manages to bring this in an incredibly lighthearted way. As mentioned, Schwartzman and Johansson play great roles in this, but Bryan Cranston and, of course, Steve Carell also get the laughs.
As far as I am concerned, the film manages to excel mainly thanks to its visual splendor. Asteroid City, then, is a movie you’ll love to see in the theater, as every frame is finger-licking good. Anderson is a perfectionist, and it shows in everything. With every film he makes, he seems to wander further afield with how to come up with the perfect shot. Once again, the latest work pulls off a number of tricks, which I won’t reveal too much about. Story-wise, Asteroid City is certainly not the very best film I have seen from the Texas director, but it is certainly the finest.
The story that starts slowly during the film does eventually fall together after a while, but even then it can’t compete with personal favorites like The Royal Tenenbaums, Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The film is carried by the excellent cast, the inventive humor and, of course, the stunning visual aspect. But even if there was no story at all in a Wes Anderson film, you still need to watch it on the biggest screen possible.
Asteroid City is director Wes Anderson’s new work of art that requires the viewer to pay extra close attention. The film’s story is presented by a brilliant cast of actors, each of whom deserves the viewer’s attention. Absolute standouts in this are Jason Schwartzman and Scarlett Johansson. The film is a meta-movie that tells parallel stories, which can be confusing at first. Although the film is not my favorite story compared to Anderson’s other works, Asteroid City comes close in terms of humor and acting.