Of the directors that broke through in the late 1990s, Wes Anderson has been one of the most successful – but also the most divisive.
With a distinct visual style and love of nostalgia, some celebrate him as a genius while others call him a one trick pony. Either way, 25 years on from his hit comedy Rushmore, Anderson continues to capture the imagination, and invites a whole host of stars to step into his new work, Asteroid City.
As with his previous films, Anderson’s story is framed in an unusual way. We’re taken back to 1955 and a play within a teleplay, Asteroid City. The fiction unfolds in colour, while the staging is presented in black and white. It follows the visitors to an annual stargazing convention in Asteroid City, a town located around a crater created by the titular asteroid.
If you think Wes Anderson movies are simply formed of awkward dialogue and Bill Murray cameos, this new story is unlikely to make you change your mind. Anderson has no interest in being user friendly, turning the self-indulgence up a notch and revelling in his current mood board (1950s B-Movies).
To dismiss this as style over substance would be a disservice, however, as there’s much that lurks beyond the aesthetic. Anderson’s world is one populated with characters imprisoned in structure, and explosions of emotion rupture that rigidity. In that sense, Asteroid City is a triumph; a puzzle that traverses from stylised to relatable and sentimental.
The best performers are Jason Schwartzman as a grieving husband unable to confront his loss, and a worn-down TV actor played by Anderson debutante Scarlett Johansson. As with 2021’s The French Dispatch, Asteroid CIty isn’t going to recruit any new fans.
However, if you adore the Oscar winner’s cinematic eccentricities, Asteroid City will be just under two hours of heaven.