Asteroid City Movie Review: In an age where totally revolting AI parodies of Wes Anderson’s filmmaking flair have taken over TikTok, the auteur of that style himself shows these folks how it’s done as Asteroid City unleashes its full symmetrical glory on to the big screen. In terms of essence, the movie is perhaps Anderson's most Anderson-y to date, and many may find it to be a bit overindulgent. However, beyond that, it has a profound side, with an existentially driven Anderson posing the question, "How to make sense of something that doesn't have an answer?" Cannes 2023: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City & Stars Scarlett Johansson, Jason Schwartzman and Others Receive Over 6 Minute Standing Ovation at Premiere (Watch Videos).

Asteroid City picks up in the '50s with playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) writing his own play named Asteroid City that follows a grief-stricken father named Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman), who after the death of his wife, is taking his kids to the annual stargazing event in a small rural town only to find his view on the world be changed forever.

A Still From Asteroid City (Photo Credits: Focus Features)

In many ways, explaining Asteroid City is a whole other deal of its own where it delves into the themes of existentiality while feeling like Anderson’s most personal and direct work yet. It almost feels like the director is describing his own metacontextual framing strategies and creating a movie that is an extension of himself. The plot is split into two sections: the play itself, which is set in the made-up town of Asteroid City, and the story behind it, which is shown in black and white.

Leading the show is Jason Schwartzman who portrays Jason Hall, an actor portraying Augie in the play. Much of his story is rather a direct reference to wanting easy answers to questions that don’t always have one, and he plays Hall as a veteran of the game to whom even the play of Asteroid City is a mystery. As Augie, Schwartzman puts on a stone-cold persona trying to work through his wife’s death while also striking up a romance with Scarlett Johansson’s Midge, an in-universe actress and mother just trying make sense of the space she is in. And it’s the following of these two characters that makes so much of Asteroid City seem impactful in its concept.

Watch the Trailer for Asteroid City:

The movie features many of the biggest names you can find, and they do a great job of referencing the ideas of the movie. One of the most striking is Jeffrey Wright as General Gibson, the host of Asteroid City, demonstrating once more that he makes a terrific addition to Anderson's recurring star ensemble following The French Dispatch. Another is Jake Ryan's Woodrow, Augie's son, whose journey throughout the movie seems personal on every level. Bryan Cranston is also delightful as the narrator, while Tom Hanks shines in his little appearance. However, the best of them all is Margot Robbie, who even with only one minute of screen time delivers one of the movie's most poignant scenes.

With Asteroid City’s dual-like narrative structure with it switching from black-and-white to colour, there is a certain juxtaposition to it that does often seem overindulgent. It primarily feels like a film that Anderson has just made for himself, and in that case, it did lose me at certain intervals. I won’t lie, there were certain scenes that I just had to take a lot of time to process and understand its meaning, and in that the flow does often break. I just wish it was clearer in its narrative than heavily relying on contextual meaning, and it does hurt the film overall.

A Still From Asteroid City (Photo Credits: Focus Features)

There is no denying that the film is also really not an accessible watch to all. For those who are new to Anderson’s way of storytelling, it won’t appeal to them at all and is mainly a reserved watch for those already comfortable with the director’s flair.

But it's not until its third act where the pieces fall into its place. A confused Hall quietly exists the play only to ask the director what does it all mean? And it's in this moment did the entirety of the film finally speak to me in a way that I didn’t expect it to. Asteroid City might be a film of a few faults, but there is no denying that its impact does indeed hit like a truck. Asteroid City Review: Critics Call Wes Anderson's Sci-Fi Film an 'Exhilarating Triumph', Say It's 'One of His Very Best Movies'.

A Still From Asteroid City (Photo Credits: Focus Features)

Also, about the cinematography that has been the talk of so many discussions, Asteroid City is the most peculiar Anderson’s work has been so far. It’s the best display of vibrancy and overexposure that the director brings to his films, and the symmetry of it all just remains unmatched. The camera has a very limited movement to it with each and every frame specifically constructed in a way to showcase every little detail, and its definitely something an AI prompt uploaded to TikTok or an Instagram trend can’t recreate.

Final Thoughts

Asteroid City does have its moments of overindulgence that can turn off few viewers, but if you look past and dig into the deeper meaning of what the film is, you’ll find a poignant tale about existentialism that sees Wes Anderson at his most personal. Beautiful to look at and meta in many ways, this was a delightful watch. Asteroid City is playing in theatres right now.


(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Aug 25, 2023 09:54 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website