"Wes Anderson proves that he still has a lot more to say, as Asteroid City becomes one of his strongest in recent years."
BY BECCA JOHNSON JUNE 27, 2023
Asteroid City is the eleventh feature film from modern auteur Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox). Bringing his signature aesthetic, regular cast of actors and hilariously dry humour to a fictional American desert town circa 1955, Anderson brings us a story of a Junior Space Cadet Convention that is spectacularly disrupted by a world changing event. Beautifully shot, perfectly acted and featuring all of the Anderson-isms that we've grown to love over the years, Asteroid City is a blast that is well worth the cinema trip.
Like his style or not, it's undeniable that Wes Anderson has a very signature one, and he brings that out in full force for his newest endeavour. We all expect a visual masterpiece from him, but somehow, Asteroid City exceeds expectations. It's bright, yellow and pink tones are a treat for the eyes, the desert setting allowing so much summer warmth to pull through. The costumes are simple yet effective due to the colour and 50's feel, and the set design is simply outstanding, bringing everything together in an immersive way. Every shot is a picture, cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman using exceptional framing and tracking shots to help tell the story. Even the few scenes that are black-and-white look great, adding an extra layer that many viewers weren't expecting. It's cinematography is it's best feature, and is worth seeing for that alone.
We also always expect an ensemble cast, yet Asteroid City may just be his biggest and best yet. The movie features Anderson regulars such as lead Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton and Adrien Brody, and also a few newcomers including Tom Hanks, Hope Davis, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell and Margot Robbie. All deliver the unique script well, particularly Schwartzman who shines in the lead role. Scarlett Johansson stars opposite and is a great match for talent, continuing her streak of delivering strong performances. Despite having less screen-time than we'd hope, Tom Hanks fits into this world perfectly, making it hard to believe it's his first Anderson feature as it suits him so well. The cast is full of stars, and they are all notable. The only issue with having a cast this large is that plenty of our talented actors are under-utilised, many delivering mere cameos. Even some of the characters that are an integral part of the main storyline don't get a great deal to do, and it occasionally feels that there are too many people to follow for a fairly snappy 100 minute run-time. Wanting more of something isn't always a negative, but it's occasionally a slight shame.
For a story that sounds simple on paper (a group of people visit a town for a convention and something shocking happens), the storytelling is compelling and intriguing. It takes the play-within-a-play approach, giving us some narration and short scenes that break up the main plot but are just as interesting. The characters are all fresh and fascinating, from Schwartzman's war photographer to Johansson's famous movie star, and the way this cast fully become their characters highlights the clever script even more. In true Wes Anderson fashion, the writing is full of one-liners that are dry yet hilarious, leaving you quoting the movie after just one viewing. It flows together well and feels very cohesive in it's entirety, but has two or three stand-out scenes that will likely go down as the best of the year. It also has plenty of moments that have a lot to say, Asteroid City perhaps becoming his deepest outing since The Grand Budapest Hotel. There may be one or two scenes that aren't as interesting as the one previous, or perhaps go on for a little longer than needed, but it's mostly full of whimsical wonder, fun anecdotes and endearingly quirky characters.
Asteroid City is an absolute triumph, delivering in all aspects from it's cinematography to it's original score. Wes Anderson proves that he still has a lot more to say, as Asteroid City becomes one of his strongest in recent years. Despite him bringing in his signature style more than ever, it never feels like too much as is very self-aware. It's the most visually stunning movie of the year thus far, it has a fantastic ensemble cast that all shine and the story is unlike anything we've seen before. It's impossible not to smile from start to finish whilst watching this masterfully constructed, deep and charming breeze of a film that may bring in even more fans of the director if audiences give it the chance it deserves.