Asteroid City is co-written and directed by Wes Anderson. Wes Anderson doesn’t really make films that I like, apart from a few exceptions: I did like Fantastic Mr Fox, but as a whole, he’s a very hit-and-miss director for me. I never really understood why The Grand Budapest Hotel got so many awards and animations because I actually found that really hard to follow…
Asteroid City came out in the UK at a time without much competition apart from a few releases, The Flash and Indiana Jones. With its imagery evoking back to classic 50’s sci-fi, it’s hoping to bring people back for nostalgia. I think that the advertising campaign worked, my cinema screening was a lot more packed than I had expected it to be.
Full disclosure, Asteroid City was really the only thing in the cinema this week, so it was either this or the Jennifer Lawrence rom-com with quite creepy overtones. I’m not sure if I got the better end of the deal, because Asteroid City really wasn’t my cup of tea.
This film was hard to get through. The good news is that, unlike The Grand Budapest Hotel, it doesn’t feel like a bloated experience, since the film runs at a brisk hour and forty minutes. However, it doesn’t really have a cohesive plot- I couldn’t really tell you what was going on in this movie. It just felt like tons of moments that were happening. I couldn’t tell you what the character motivations were, what certain actions were taking place and why, etc.
If I’m trying to sum it up, Asteroid City is us watching at the same time, a black-and-white documentary about the making of a play called Asteroid City that has been narrated by Bryan Cranston, with the play being created by someone played by Edward Norton, and the story is about a bunch of families travelling to a makeshift fixer-upper town in the dessert named Asteroid City as part of a young stargazer event which is interrupted partway through by an alien (which is played and I believe motion-captured by Jeff Goldblum for no apparent reason, since he only gets a few lines of dialogue, so you could have put anyone in that position and it would have made sense) and the ensuing chaos of the quarantine.
That all does a disservice to how insane the movie feels! There is so much going on in this movie. You have an actress played by Scarlett Johansson who is rehearsing for a part, a realtor played by Steve Carrell who is trying to flog land, the main family that is coming to terms with the death of the mother…
Because this film is really pretentious it actually labels its acts to seem like it’s doing an artsy throwback- which was the main thing that came across to me about this film: it’s pretentious, and it tries to pretend it’s not by being quirky. If I was to paraphrase a quote from Mitch Ben when talking about the film Love Actually, it’s that no one in this film talks like a human being. There are a ton of fourth wall breaks that don’t make sense, the dialogue is incoherent nonsense. There were some funny moments, don’t get me wrong, I did laugh at some points, but wow the dialogue in this movie is appalling! It feels apt that this is a movie with an alien in it because no one in it sounds like they’re from the planet Earth. I thought that the twist was going to be that they were all aliens all along, which would explain why nothing makes sense, but nope, that’s just the text that the playwright envisioned.
There were so many character moments where I was just like, I don’t care! You have given me no reason to care. I longed for simple dialogue and character interactions. Just do something that would be in a normal movie!
By the time we get to the third act, the film just gives up and stops. They even have a fourth wall break again to point out the fact that the whole thing is nonsense.
The cast is really over the top, I haven’t even mentioned Jeffery Wright, Willem Dafoe, Adrian Brody, Tilda Swinton, and Tom Hanks. This film is so star-studded that I think that it hurts the movie because there is no one to be the lead actor or actress, so as a result, it feels like one of those albums that you hear that is loaded with so many guest stars that it feels like a compilation piece with no identity.
This film really broke me. It felt like hanging around in a small, confined area with a person that thinks that they’re smarter than me and much more eccentric. If you’re actually eccentric and interesting, stop pointing it out!
I really grew to dislike this movie. It’s got everything that I don’t like about The Grand Budapest Hotel and it felt like it supercharged it. It felt like Anderson leaned into all of his weaknesses and did not play to any of his strengths. It’s a mess of a movie and I genuinely can’t recommend it to anyone.
No joke, if I was watching this on Netflix, I would have given up by the 20-minute mark. That’s how bad it was.
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