Ben Oliver

Banner image for Asteroid City

Asteroid City

Just keep telling the story.
09 July 2023

A play-within-a-film, where the film is about the making of a play about a father (Jason Schwartzman) who travels with his kids to a stargazing event in a tiny town in the desert, Asteroid City.

Every time a Wes Anderson film comes out he gets accused of self-parody or finally being ‘too Wes Anderson, even for the fans’. Well with Asteroid City he’s reacted to such criticism by doubling down and continuing to make films in his same trademark style.

And yet it is probably his most self-aware film to date. His sets always feel like theme parks, and the film-within-a-film structure is the perfect device in which to frame the pristine Asteroid City.

On a surface level the production design here is astonishing, with much of the set clearly having been built for real. It’s sparse, but it’s there - and all for a ‘fictional’ town even within the structure of the film.

It’s not style over substance though. What stuck out to me was its exploration of grief, and what happens when a singular event changes your world view. Perhaps it’s a bit reductive to call it a pandemic movie, but that’s what springs to mind.

It’s easier to list who isn’t in this film, and nobody puts a foot wrong. Scarlett Johansson and Tom Hanks in particular are excellent.

I’m a sucker for these movies so don’t come here for an objective take on the film. For me this is some of Anderson’s more insightful, well-rounded work and I’d suggest it’s his most accomplished film since The Grand Budapest Hotel. It’s funny and off-beat but is imbued with a healthy dose of melancholy and driven by a script that repeatedly deconstructs itself.