Wes Anderson has done it again with his newest ensemble comedy, Asteroid City, releasing in theaters following its Cannes premiere.
Anderson is one of those filmmakers that you either love or you don’t. I had an enjoyable enough time that I look forward to diving into the bonus features for the home release. Anyway, Anderson takes the audience to a fictional city in the American Southwest in 1955. To say that it is a small town would not be an understatement. It’s the type of city–population: 87–that you can drive straight through within mere moments. That’s how it felt while watching in the screening room. In any event, the only big attractions are the asteroid that spawned its name and a nearby observatory. There’s really not much to do other than stop at the diner, fill up on gas, or spend the night at the hotel.
The main people here are Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson), and Stanley Zak (Tom Hanks). Stanley is Augie’s father-in-law. Augie just isn’t ready to let his children know that their mother is dead. Heartbreaking, I know. Anyway, they’re in this small town for Asteroid Day–commemorating the Arid Plains meteorite hitting Earth–because Augie’s son, Woodrow (Jake Ryan), is being honored as a Junior Stargazer. Midge, a movie star, is there with her daughter, Dinah (Grace Edwards).
An alien visits during a ceremony honoring the Junior Stargazers and next thing you know, everyone is on lockdown. Some try to escape while others make the best of a bad situation. You know things are bad when the Army is covering things up with a lie! Not surprisingly, the Junior Stargazers try and get the truth out there, no matter the consequences. Meanwhile, Anderson has another card up his sleeve by turning the whole film over on its head. What we think is a movie is really a stage play! You have actors playing actors playing actors. Schwartzman is really Jones Hall while Johansson portrays Mercedes Ford. They’re performing a new play, written by Conrad Earp (Edward Norton), at the Tarkington Theatre. We know this because the Host (Bryan Cranston) lets us know.
It’s not uncommon for Wes Anderson films to feature a large ensemble cast. He’s working with many regular cast members once again with some new ones joining the fray. Most importantly, Anderson and the cast are somehow able to pull it off in this impressive mixture of the American West and Broadway. The 1950s make for quite the interesting setting because you also have the Cold War happening on top of the Red Scare and everything else. The fact that the movie is really a play can be a lot to take in but Anderson hits the landing.
Asteroid City has all the makings of a Wes Anderson comedy.
DIRECTOR/SCREENWRITER: Wes Anderson
CAST: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis, Stephen Park, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori, Jake Ryan, Jeff Goldblum
Focus Features will release Asteroid City in theaters on June 16, 2023. Grade: 4/5
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