- By Paul Glynn
- entertainment reporter
Critics hailed Wes Anderson’s star-studded new film Asteroid City as “elegant” but lacking in substance.
The sci-fi homage sees a convention of junior astronomers disrupted by world-changing events.
A bus full of its stars, including Tom Hanks and Scarlett Johansson, orbited the film’s premiere at the Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday
Oscar-winning actor Hanks walked the red carpet with his wife, actress and producer Rita Wilson.
Writing on Instagram later, Wilson defended Hanks after fans asked if he got angry on the red carpet, saying her actor husband only asked for directions and had a hard time hearing the response. of the Cannes staff member.
Black Widow star Johansson, meanwhile, was there with her husband – Saturday Night Live comedian Colin Jost.
Asteroid City sees Johansson lead a cast of Hollywood royalty, including Hanks and Margot Robbie – both newcomers to Anderson’s celluloid world – Jason Schwartzman and Tilda Swinton.
The film also features Jeffrey Wright, Edward Norton, Adrien Brody and Steve Carell, who replaced Anderson’s favorite Bill Murray after catching Covid days before filming began.
Johansson plays a 1950s movie icon – think Bette Davis – in the story set in a fictional American desert town, where a group of child geniuses are gathered for a science contest interrupted by an alien visitor who leaves them locked in quarantine.
Anderson is best known for directing films such as The Grand Budapest Hotel and Moonrise Kingdom.
Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian awarded the film four stars, describing it as an “exhilarating triumph of pure style” which “leans well into its own artificiality, and every microscopically delightful detail is a delight”.
“Asteroid City’s eccentricity, elegance, cheerfulness and profusion of detail within the picture frame make it such a pleasure,” he wrote.
“So does his dapper style of classic American pop culture. With each new shot, your eyes scan the screen, catching all the little jokes and painterly embellishments, each getting a micro-chuckle.”
He continued: “As always, there is little to no emotional content, despite the ostensible subject matter of grief. The film unfolds intelligently and exhilaratingly, deftly absorbing the implications of pathos and loneliness without allowing itself to slow down. .
“It’s tempting to think of this scholarly void as some sort of symptom, but I really don’t think so: it’s the expression of the style. And what style it is.”
“It looks lovely, as usual: blue Cadillacs against an orange desert, spinning satellite dishes, clouds of mushrooms from nuclear tests rising silently on the horizon,” he said. he wrote.
“There are subtle departures, however: fantastical encounters (I won’t say more) and an air of unnerving surreality that feels new. It’s Anderson filtered through the lens of David Lynch minus the horror, or Charlie Kaufman with a better adaptation.”
He said it “comes out as a stylized meditation on grief, although it’s not the kind anyone is going to shed a tear over.”
“Asteroid City looks great, but as a movie it’s only for Anderson diehards, and maybe not too many of them,” he concluded.
There were similar reservations from David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter. He noted how, as always with Anderson’s films, “the elements of craftsmanship are impeccable” and that “every actor is 100% committed to the director’s vision, like quirky action figures in a miniature toy world. “.
“The problem is that there just isn’t enough here to fully engage the viewer beyond the brand aesthetic – no emotional pull or lingering feeling and too few genuine laughs,” said he added.
“For a film so oddly weightless, it seems awfully self-satisfied, its moments of magic evaporating almost instantly.”
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Anderson started trending last month, with social media awash with parodies of his past films using his quirky, deadpan style and pastel-colored aesthetic.
On Tuesday, the director told AFP news agency he wrote Asteroid City during the Covid-19 lockdown, saying it was “to reckon with forces beyond your control”.
“This film is certainly informed by the most bizarre viral moment in recent history,” he said.
“Writing it during this pandemic, in the middle of the most locked down lockdown, we weren’t sure we’d come out again – so I think it’s kind of in there.”
Its lead actress, Johansson, likened the director’s approach to being more like theater than film. “You’re in it, the whole environment is created,” she said at the Cannes press conference on Wednesday. “It’s a physical, tangible, usable space.”
The film’s arrival was hailed by Geoffery Mcnab of the Independent, who said the “grossing cosmic comedy” was reminiscent of a “quirky” version of the 1977 American sci-fi drama film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
“Anderson has assembled one of his familiar huge ensemble casts,” he noted. “Much of the fun here comes from the perfectly calibrated and very deadpan performances of its actors, even those in minor roles.”
“Johansson is brilliant,” he pointed out, “giving her character both sexiness and pathos.”
“In its quirky way, Asteroid City is Anderson’s patchwork of Cold War paranoia and American family values in all their often hypocritical glory. heartstrings.”
“Delightful, at times quite moving, and always exquisitely crafted, he is an unassuming charmer who tries to make sense of the world, either through art or other pursuits.”
Asteroid City hits UK cinemas from June 23. Some preview screenings will take place on June 16.