Wes Anderson’s cinema is like life: was born, grew up, reached full maturity, then started down the avenue of decline, fell ill and finally left us, no flowers but good works. Now with Asteroid City we have moved on to therapeutic overkill, which only prolongs the natural conclusion, stylistic and thematic, of a cycle that has nothing left to give or say.
In keeping with the Wesandersonian tradition, believe it or not, the cast of Asteroid City is made up of all Hollywood actors that may come to mind: from Jason Schwartzman to Scarlett Johansson absolute stars via Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody, Liev Schreiber, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe, Margot Robbie, Tony Revolori Jeff Goldblum and Sophia Lillis, among others, in more or less important (often less) roles, but one would be making a grave mistake to assume Asteroid City yet another of Wes Anderson’s ever-changing films, because it is not (speaking of great casts, here is a review of Babylon).
The Texas-based director has changed so much over the years, and his famous graphic and staging style went from being a prison for its characters to a stamp for telling a world and its rules to finding a raison d’être in animation projects, after which live-action also became a cartoon.. The world and its actors as tableau vivant, and that is perfectly fine: if anything, the problem is the endless reiteration in search of nothingness.
Asteroid City: under the dress nothing
The film, scripted by Wes Anderson from an original story created by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola and produced by Wes Anderson, Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson, is set in an imaginary American desert town in 1955.: the itinerary of a convention of young astronomers and space cadets (organized to bring together students and parents from around the country for an academic and fellowship competition) is spectacularly disrupted by a series of events destined to change the world, starting with the Asteroid City of the title, a location that has sprung up alongside a crater that came into being from a meteorite impact.
The close encounters of the third kind at the center of the story ‘lock’ the protagonists into the space of their lives until the government arrives and decides to take matters into its own hands. However, as the situationalist skits come one after another to illustrate the stories of the large roster of characters (always lovable and funny-that’s what saves Wes Anderson, making it impossible to want to hurt him), it becomes increasingly apparent how Asteroid City is not really interested in anything they are showing or telling us..
As well as the previous The French Dispatch managed to turn a full nude of Lea Seydoux into museum material, depleting the erotic charge of an actress and a body that is all eroticism, Asteroid City is the exasperation of atrophied aestheticisms designed for the sole purpose of filling that gigantic thematic void that remained at the center of not only this film/project but the entire parabola of a career: the less there is to say, the more articulate the way of saying it becomes.
that may be okay the first time, maybe even the second time, on good days even the third time. But then comes Asteroid City.