Review (Scott Mc Cutcheon 21/06/23)

Reviewing a Wes Anderson film is never easy and trying to explain the plot is often even harder. His films are certainly original but plot wise they can range from confusing to downright head scratching. Asteroid City, his 10th film as director, might not be as confusing as his last cinema outing, The French Dispatch (2021) but it certainly comes close.

Set in 1955 and filmed in black and white we’re first taken to a TV studio where the presenter (Bryan Cranston) is introducing the audience to a play by playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton). We’re then transported, in glorious Technicolor, to the place where Earp’s latest play is set. Asteroid City population 87.  The town’s only claim to fame being is that it sits on the edge of a crater made by an asteroid that fell to earth thousands of years ago.

In the play war photographer Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman) arrives at the Junior Stargazer convention with Woodrow, his intellectual teenage son, and his three younger daughters. Also arrived in the town to take part in the convention are Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson), an actress famous for her work in TV plays, and her daughter Dinah, a five-star General Grif Gibson (Jeffrey Wright), astronomer Dr. Hickenlooper (Tilda Swnton), three other teenaged honourees and their parents, a busload of elementary-school children chaperoned by a young teacher called June (Maya Hawke), and a gang of cowboys led by singer Montana (Rupert Friend). All are put up in the only hotel in the town run by the enterprising if somewhat condescending manager (Steve Carell). Also adding to the starry cast is Tom Hanks who turns up in the town after Steenbeck’s, his son-in-law, car breaks down.

As the Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention is being held it’s spectacularly disrupted by a visit from an alien being which in turns leads to General Gibson placing the town and its inhabitants in quarantine.

Anderson’s script is sharp and witty but flipping back and forward between Asteroid City and the TV studio only helps to make an already confusing story even more confusing.

The best way to enjoy Asteroid City is not to try too hard to understand it but instead let yourself be taken along with the flow and just let all the bizarreness wash over you

Beautifully filmed, as is nearly always the case with Anderson’s films, and with terrific performances from its ensemble cast Asteroid City is a film that Anderson’s fans will adore.


Asteroid City

Director: Wes Anderson
Cast: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Hope Davis

UK Release: Cinemas 23rd June 2023