Wes Anderson is any film festival’s favourite: a guarantor for a fun, quirky adventure with an armada of celebrities always in tow. In addition to the usual suspects (Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody), Asteroid City’s all-star cast includes Anderson newbies Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson (in the flesh), Maya Hawke and Hong Chau.
The feature starts in black-and-white and a 4:3 aspect ratio. Eerily pertinent to the current strike in Hollywood, the viewer comes face-to-face with the reality of where all stories originate: from writers. Edward Norton is introduced as the playwright behind the stage production we are about to see, his hard work acknowledged, as well as the fact that, for an audience, a man sat at a desk for months agonising over words may not be the most interesting thing to look at (perhaps one of the reasons writers are so overlooked in the industry?).
The depiction of the play itself happens in vibrant, pastel hues and widescreen format: the implication that it is art that gives our lives colour and buoyancy. The plot of the production is that a myriad of eccentric characters converge in the sparsely inhabited desert town named after a meteorite landing, which is now site to atom bomb tests and attempts to communicate with extraterrestrial intelligence. When there is indeed an alien sighting, a lockdown is enforced upon Asteroid City.
In the director’s trademark style, each shot is crafted with meticulous symmetry and attention to detail – a virtually supersaturating feast for the eye. The décor is lavish, even in its obvious two-dimensionality; it is a set of a set, after all, only the play’s director (Brody) treats it as more than that.
Naturally, the deadpan humour of the script is best applied by Anderson’s longstanding collaborators – Schwartzman excels – but, notably, Steve Carell proves an extraordinarily unerring addition to the director’s world: his opportunistic motel manager brims with poesy.
If an AI was fed with the Texan director’s filmography then asked to generate a new piece, perhaps it would look just like this, but staying true to form does not negate the fact that Asteroid City is is an amusing, breezy tale, perfectly seasonable for light summer viewing.
Asteroid City is released nationwide on 23rd June 2023.
Read more reviews from our Cannes Film Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Cannes Film Festival website here.
Watch the trailer for Asteroid City here: