© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

Asteroid City
U.S.A. 2023

Opening 15 Jun 2023

Directed by: Wes Anderson
Writing credits: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Principal actors: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton

Asteroid City is director Wes Anderson’s 11th feature film, and it has all of the hallmarks that make his movies so unmistakably and distinctly Wes Anderson movies: a huge cast of A-list actors, a whimsical and highly-saturated color palette, a quirky setting, an oddball cast of characters, and a heavy dose of nostalgia and complicated family dynamics, all presented in a deadpan manner. In short, it’s a quintessential Wes Anderson movie.

This one is set in a desert town in the United States, the fictional Asteroid City, in the mid-1950s, where a group of teenagers and their families have gathered to hold a Junior Stargazers convention. The kids are being honored for their inventions and given a tour of the scientific research center when the festivities are interrupted by the arrival of an unexpected guest. Shut down in quarantine, this motley crew of precocious children and melancholy or mournful parents rub elbows with cowboys (most played by well-known musicians), scientists, and soldiers. Augie Steenbeck (Schwartzman) is there with his brilliant son Woodrow (Jake Ryan), in the aftermath of a personal tragedy, and finds comfort in flirtatious and absurdly dark discussion with the movie star Midge Campbell (Johansson). The narrative, however, is merely a frame on which Anderson hangs the trappings of his unique aesthetic style of movie making.

If you like his movies – which I do, mostly because they’re eye candy that set themselves apart in a delicious way – then you’ll probably also like Asteroid City, although it lacks some of the punch or novelty of many of his films. I found the framing device Anderson uses – the movie is a narrative set within a narrative – to be imaginative, especially as it allows him to cram in even more great actors in tiny roles. And the soundtrack and the detailed nostalgic reimagination of mid-century American culture are fun. But the overall tone of the movie left me feeling somewhat flat, perhaps like many of the characters in Asteroid City. All in all, a fun but perhaps forgettable film in the oeuvre of an iconic American filmmaker. (Diana Schnelle)

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