Absurd comedy wins hearts with meta-play
As one of the most awaited movies of 2023, Wes Anderson finally returns with the comedy Asteroid City to the Cannes Film Festival’s main competition. With the ‘Wes Anderson’ trend taking over Instagram and TikTok it makes us appreciate his art style even more. While similar to the style of other auteurs, it is yet novel, making his work unique with a signature look that everyone can recognise.
Along with the classic transitions and the still frames, Asteroid City has the Anderson-esque toy-like art direction which adds a type of nostalgia to the better days of our childhood. Coupled with the yellow saturated theme which gives a serotonin boost, it is cinematic yet experimental. Meanwhile, old-school blocking which may look pretentious in other arty films, makes every frame of Asteroid City feel like a painting. The CGI giving us the complete Anderson style is always exceptional so the sudden retro cartoon-like stop motion used for the Asteroid Day event just adds to that idea of an otherworldly experience. It is not realistic precisely why it works on demarcating what is real and what is new.
Familiar faces that make up his team return once more such as Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe and Tony Revolori along with Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Margot Robbie and Maya Hawke. Their acting is fun as it seems that they might be enjoying themselves with the deadpan humour. The characterization is also well done as all of the actors cast as the actors of Asteroid City play their two roles as two different people with ease.
But that’s not all with Asteroid City — along with the delightful visuals, chirpy music and the best of the best actors making up the cast, the movie also has a fun, quirky little story with absurd, deep and philosophical messages about discrimination, loneliness and acceptance. It starts off with a group of brainy kids accompanied by their parents like war photographer Augie Steenbeck and the actress Midge attending Asteroid Day at Asteroid City, named for the asteroid that landed in the city and created a huge crater.
The kids are to be awarded for their astronomical inventions and with one lucky child getting a scholarship. However, the event ends in disaster and the outsiders who have all arrived for the event and stargazing are all stuck in the city against their will. But the catch is that Asteroid City is a play written by the genius playwright Conan Earp who has his own existential crisis. He sees himself in the main lead of the play and ends up basing it off of himself.
Well, two stories run in parallel — one of the play Asteroid City and the other, the making of the play as Earp and his production face several troubles while trying to write and perform it. Bryan Cranston breaks the fourth wall as the narrator as he regales us with the story of Earp who in turn unveils Asteroid City for us. While Earp’s story takes a while to pick up, with lot of quick conflicts and even quicker resolutions that aren’t too satisfying, Asteroid City is the perfect satirical play.
Right when it slows down and is about to get boring, it picks up again with something absurd and chaotic happening, making you wonder how it’s going to play out. It does lack in the ending but that’s only because everyone has such high expectations that poor Anderson has no room to make mistakes. Even the tiniest issue is highlighted such as the too simple ending which could maybe work if it was by any other filmmaker, but fans just expect more from him. But all in all, the play has everything quintessential of a Wes Anderson film that it could work well on its own, or maybe even make for a better movie if we didn’t have the Earp storyline.
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Verdict - 8/10