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Asteroid City

Updated: Jul 22, 2023

This is the second Wes Anderson film that I've seen, (I know, sacrilege, right?) and after "The Great Budapest Hotel" I was really looking forward to ASTEROID CITY.

Great cast, great production design and.....a big hole in the ground where all the entertainment value of Anderson's latest must be buried.

It starts promisingly with Bryan Cranston appearing in a black and white broadcast as our host. He explains that we're about to see an early TV documentary about the creation of a new theater piece detailing the titular town in the west.

The film then dives into full color as the titles lay out an incredible cast of actors and wows us with an over-saturated Technicolor vision of a strange little town in the middle of nowhere. A cross between the mountains around Cars Land in Disneyland and late 50's Americana, the set is fantastic and continues to be throughout the film as it expands to accommodate the story.

Visually, every frame of the film belongs in a gallery.

General Gisbon (Jeffrey Wright waxing poetic and hilarious) is attending as the military spokesman ready to award a scholarship to the best young scientist attending a Junior Stargazer Event. A handful of them have arrived for the ceremony including the daughter of famous actress Midge Campbell (a perfect Scarlett Johansson), and the son of recently widowed Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman). Tom Hanks is Steenbeck's father-in-law, Steve Carell owns the Barbie colored Bates Motel everyone's staying in, Matt Dillon is the local mechanic and Liev Schreiber's son has created a vaporizing ray.

As the lead scientist at the crater, Tilda Swinton has fun as a bone dry leader about to have the discovery of her life.

The story is told in acts like a play, with black and white scenes about its creation popping in and out of the narrative.

Adrien Brody is the play's director, Edward Norton is the play's author and Margot Robbie appears as an actress cut after the early rehearsals.

So....GREAT CAST, fantastic looking movie and an occasional very dry laugh. Where Anderson's quirk really connected with me in "Budapest" it leaves me as dry as the desert setting this time around. I kept thinking "great dialogue in search of a plot".

Even a brief Jeff Goldblum appearance can't salvage this one for me, and Goldblum rescues EVERY movie he's in.

It might go down in history as the only PG-13 rated movie to have a full frontal nude scene from Scarlett. Huh? I guess the ratings board was distracted by the great sets. They certainly weren't by any coherent story.

ASTEROID CITY thuds down in the desert with a colorful but aimless C.

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