The Reel Review
Writer/director Wes Anderson tells a tale of processing grief and the human need to belong, in this eccentric, multi-layered, story within a story, where a grieving father and his children experience a life changing moment while visiting a space camp in a 1950’s desert town in the American Southwest.
Those already familiar with Anderson know his trademark schtick: blend meticulously detailed visuals with quirky characters played by an all-star cast. And this dramedy may be his starriest yet, with a huge lineup that includes Anderson regulars Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Edward Norton, and Adrian Brody, as well as a cavalcade of other major acting talents. Bryan Cranston is a Rod Serling-like narrator in the film’s very self-referential, black and white story around wrapped around the story, with Johansson the film’s acting stand-out as Midge Campbell, the movie star mother of one of the young Stargazers.
Anderson’s most diehard fans love his unique artistry – while his detractors loathe his pretentiousness and haphazard storytelling. While some of his stronger films are able to meld style and substance, in Asteroid City, Anderson’s self-indulgence gets the better of him, despite a stunning pastel visual palate and a few charming, and oddly amusing moments. The frequent self-references are ultimately annoying, distancing itself from the viewer with an end product that is more irritatingly “look at how clever I am!” than it is entertaining or even insightful storytelling.
• Steve Carell replaced Bill Murray as the motel owner when Murray contracted COVID-19 shortly before filming and had to drop out. Carell also took over Murray’s role as Frank in 2006’s Little Miss Sunshine.
• Tilda Swinton was the first person that Wes Anderson cast in Asteroid City.
• Asteroid City was filmed on location in Arizona and in Spain.