Both an acerbic comedy, packed to the brim with an imagery feast for the eyes, Wes Anderson brings audiences into a weekend celebration honoring achievements of Junior Stargazers. When an unexpected alien visitor is received, Asteroid City is forced to lock down, concoct a fake story by the Army with a plan to get word to the outside world. It’s alot going on for sure.
Taking place in 1955, there is a pastel colored palette, coupled with road trips, split screen and rapid fire one-world conversations. Each frame emulates a vintage postcard and a Twilight Zone/Close Encounters sci-fi vibe, while a strange ticking rhythmical instrumentation adds to the edge of your seat energy.
But let’s back up for second. The Host (Bryan Cranston) is on a television-studio soundstage, circa 1950’s, taking us backstage to witness the creation of a new play at the Tarkington Theatre. Enter playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton), the ensemble, and leads Jones Hall (Jason Schwartzman) and Mercedes Ford (Scarlett Johansson). Straddling back and forth between a Hitchcock mystery and film noir classic, Anderson manages to step into the history and myths of a 1950’s American West and Broadway.
Having been in at least seven Wes Anderson flicks, Schwartzman is the anchor for this film assisted by Johansson. Their chemistry is crucial in making this film work. “The movie was written for Jason,” says Anderson. “Here’s a character Jason has never played before, which draws on facets of what we know he is and what he can do, and we build a whole movie around it.”
Having said that numerous scenes stick to the ribs. Adrian Brody and Hong Chau’s film noir moment lingers in one’s psyche and spirit with performances simultaneously haunting, grounded and etherial. Wistful others appear in the form of Richie, Margot and Chas Tenenbaum longing to connect with their father, or the brothers looking for their mother in The Darjeeling Limited.
Between the star studded cast, razor sharp dialogue and wild premise, Asteroid City will have Anderson fans applauding and others scratching their heads trying to make sense of the avant-garde cinematic ride provided in the most unusually creative sense possible.