Thursday, December 14, 2023

Asteroid City

Writer/director Wes Anderson leans into his quirks and fancies in this 1950s live television production of a play set in the fictional town of Asteroid City. We learn very little about the actors themselves. While most of the events take place in the play itself, characters occasionally break the fourth wall revealing themselves to be the production's actors and occasionally narration will stop to explain information about the play's writer Conrad Earp (Edward Norton).

The characters of the play, most who arrive in the city at the same time for honoring teenagers in science, include Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), his son Woodrow (Jake Ryan) and daughters, actress Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) and her daughter Dinah (Grace Edwards). Both Woodrow and Midge are there to be honored for their scientific knowledge along with others who include Aristou Meehan, Ethan Josh Lee, and Sophia Lillis. We also get Tom Hanks as Augie's father-in-law and Maya Hawke as a teacher corralling a busload of kids.

The arrival of an alien, who steals the city's notable asteroid during on of the event's planned activities, forces the government to quarantine everyone for a week remaining in the odd small town together longer than any of them planned. Filmed almost entirely on large sets creating the unusual town in the middle of a desert, Asteroid City certainly earns points for look and style. The various storylines of the film, most notably Auggie and Midge and the kids which get the most screentime, provide some memorable moments as well especially in the photographer's discussion with the actress across their windowsills. 

In terms of performances, Schwartzman, Johansson, and Bryan Cranston as our narrator and television host are the most notable. The kids are also of interest in finding ways to pass the time in the middle of nowhere. Written and shot during the COVID quarantine, you can feel that effect on the story and on the filming which for a town crowded by visitors and military feels largely empty and barren in many of the scenes. There's no arguing against Anderson's rampant self-indulgence in the project, the film is what it is, but for a film that lacks the heart and larger point of the director's better works, Asteroid City still provides plenty of entertainment for fans of his quirky style. 

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Asteroid City
  • IMDb: link

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