Asteroid City Review

Friday 23 June 2023

Plot: Following a writer on his world famous fictional play about a grieving father who travels with his tech-obsessed family to small rural Asteroid City to compete in a junior stargazing event, only to have his world view disrupted forever.
Film: Asteroid City

Director: Wes Anderson

Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola 

Starring: Jason Schwatzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Bryan Cranston, Maya Hawke

After that seemingly never-ending trend of people on TikTok ‘Wes Anderson-ing’ their everyday life, it was extremely refreshing to see the real thing on the big screen and as a result this felt like the most profoundly Wes Anderson project of all. As a result, Asteroid City likely won’t be the project to convert the arthouse naysayers. The plot, especially at the start of the film, is as zany as we’ve come to expect from the director, and it isn’t until ‘the big’ event of the film that its true purpose becomes clear. I’ll get it out of the way right from the start, this was definitely one of my favourite Wes Anderson films, easily up there with Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel. 

In a profound story of grief, we follow Auggie Steinbeck (Jason Schwartzman), recent widower, and his four children, whom he hasn’t told of their mother’s passing, as they arrive in Asteroid City for The Junior Stargazer convention, where his eldest child, Woodrow (Jake Ryan), nicknamed Brainiac, is showcasing his science project along with four others Dina (Grace Edwards), Clifford (Artistou Meehan), Ricky (Ethan Josh Lee) and Shelley (Sophia Lillis). This young ensemble of characters were some of the strongest performances in the film, as well as Woodrow’s sisters Andromeda (Ella Faris), Pandora (Gracie Faris) and Cassiopeia (Willan Faris) who successfully stole every scene they were in with their lines all talking over one another as though one being, playing on the sci-fi nature of the town they find themselves in and really making use of the casting of triplets. 

The excellent casting doesn’t end there. As with any Wes Anderson project, the cast is jam-packed with familiar faces and overwhelming talent and even those with small roles make use of every piece of dialogue they have. Like the character of the Motel Manager (Steve Carell) who only has a handful of lines and as predicted from a comedy legend, he gets the most laughs from the audience. Hollywood starlet Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) stars opposite Schawrtzman’s Augie and the two share the more tender, very human scenes in this sci-fi-esque comedy. Scarlett Johansson really nails the dry humour in this one, which is only made funnier by multiple characters commenting on how her character is a talented comedienne, creating that joke within a joke in already layered film. You also have Wes Anderson alumni Edward Norton, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton all making an appearance in this immense ensemble cast.  

All these different personalities become quarantined in Asteroid City following an alien encounter, the grieving family, the celebrity and her daughter, the school fieldtrip, the cowboy band, a chaotic father-son duo, it all makes for a very entertaining hour-forty-five. Of course, the cinematography is spot on but that goes without saying. Wes Anderson has perfectly honed his craft to be one of the most recognisable modern directors, his name will always draw a crowd and I’m positive that those most loyal to his style and unique and authentic way of telling a story will appreciate the charm of this script, while it may not necessarily be one for the mainstream film enjoyer. 

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