Asteroid City (2023) Review
WES Anderson has, and will remain, one of cinema's most ambitious directors. His style of filmmaking focuses on the visuals and characters coincide with one another, often resulting in some of the best movies of their year such as 2014's Grand Budapest Hotel and 2012's Moonrise Kingdom. However, even long-time fans of the filmmaker have admitted that his latest endeavour fails to reach the same level of quality as his previous masterpieces.
Asteroid City follows world famous writer Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) and his soon-to-be life-changing fictional play "Asteroid City". The play revolves around single father Augie Steenback (Jason Schwartzman) and his tech-obsessed family when they arrive in a remote town to compete in a star-gazing contest. Through this play, Conrad's world is forever changed as he begins to understand just how much life can imitate art.
General audiences will likely flock to see Asteroid City due to its star-studded cast; a familiar trait seen in many successful Wes Anderson projects. This is far from a bad thing though as the cast is what carries much of the film. Each actor bring charm to their character -- even if they aren't afforded a great deal of screentime. Jason Schwartzman, Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Bryan Cranston, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton: these are just a few of the names that steal whatever scene they are in. By including a litany of high-level actors you would expect the quality of the movie to only strengthen, however, quite the opposite occurs as while the performances are easily the best part of the Asteroid City, they just aren't enough to carry an entire feature on its back.
The film lacks perhaps the most important aspect of any movie: a cohesive plot. Wes Anderson directs the actors and visual aspects of the film wonderfully, but seems to have forgotten about an engaging story. Schwartzman and Johansson do their absolute best to bring an interesting dynamic between their characters, but this tiny town Asteroid City feels like a big fish in a small pond; just too many colourful characters within a condensed runtime and area.
If you're a diehard fan of Wes Anderson, Asteroid City offers plenty of style for your viewing pleasure. The only problem is that casual audiences will wind up leaving the movie confused and ultimately disappointed by what could have been one of Anderson's greatest endeavours. The performances, cinematography and general tone all work in the film's favour, but in the end, Asteroid City plummets back to earth after travelling too high for that near-unobtainable level of sublimity.