With “Asteroid City”, has Wes Anderson made one of his best films to date or is this a misstep in an otherwise lauded career? Is the new film, due out in June, a comeback after ‘The French Dispatch’ or a disappointment following its 2021 ensemble anthology? These are the questions critics are asking after ‘Asteroid City’ debuts at the Cannes Film Festival, where the response to Anderon’s new film seems to have traveled to the moon and back.
“Like any Wes Anderson movie, ‘Asteroid City’ is the epitome of a Wes Anderson movie,” Indiewire review david honest writing in its glowing review. “A movie about a TV show about a room within a room ‘about infinity and I don’t know what else’ (as one character describes it), this delightfully deep desert charmer – by far the director’s best effort since “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and in some ways the most poignant thing he’s ever done — has all of his usual hallmarks and more.
But at the other end of the spectrum, there is The Hollywood Reporter critical David Rooney. ‘Asteroid City’ is an ‘extremely cute new film (which) joins the ranks of Anderson’s more distant works, including ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and ‘The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou'”, Rooney writing, citing two other Anderson favorite cult films that divided critics upon release. “The writer-director rarely seems more satisfied with himself than when he is going in circles. Anderson has always been like a smart kid playing in a tightly sealed sandbox of quirky action figures and quaint toys. Here it is literally as he strands a group of people in 1955 in a fictional small desert town in the American Southwest with a population of 87, isolating them there after an alien encounter prompts the government to intervene and impose a military quarantine. .”
For The Daily Beast, Esther Zuckerman ended up on Team Wes and, like Ehrlich, found “Asteroid City” to be Anderson’s best film since “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” It’s a “completely hilarious piece that turns into something almost haunting”, she writing. “‘Asteroid City’ is full of Americana, but the lovely hootenanny of it all works in tandem with the deep questions the director asks.”
For Variety, Owen Gleiberman hissed “Asteroid City” – and like Rooney, compared it unfavorably to two favorable Anderson films, “The Life Aquatic” and “The Darjeeling Limited”.
“Then there are the Anderson films that even most of his fans don’t claim to like that much – the fussy, heavy, narratively-beaten but stretched concoctions like ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ and ‘The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou , ‘” Gleiberman writing. “‘Asteroid City’ is one of them, but more.”
“Asteroid City” is due out June 16 via Focus Features and features an all-star cast led by Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, tom hank, Steve Carelland Anderson’s regular players like Adrian Brody, Jeffrey Wright, Willem Dafoe, Jeff GoldblumAnd Liev Schreiber. The studio describes the film as follows: “‘Asteroid City’ is set in a fictional American desert town circa 1955. Synopsis: The itinerary of a Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention (held to bring together students and parents from all country for fraternity and scholarly competition) is dramatically disrupted by world-changing events.
What the plot synopsis doesn’t reveal – but something critics noted in their reviews – is that the film includes a set framing device during the production of a TV show. here’s how vanity lounge critical Richard Lawson explain in his review. “Asteroid City” “is a mid-century special about the making of a show by a Thornton Wilder-esque writer played with foppish melancholy by Edward Norton. The play, ‘Asteroid City,’ comes to life for us in the audience — but not necessarily for the fictional show’s imaginary audience,” he wrote. (Like Ehrlich and Zuckerman, Lawson also found the film to be Anderson’s best in years.)
But that conceit may be one of the things that has caused consternation among those who haven’t been thrilled with “Asteroid City,” Deadline’s reviewer suggested. Todd McCarthy.
“The show-in-a-film conceit doesn’t really pay off; no doubt, it complicates the work with little to show, and the general public, as opposed to art film lovers, will be baffled by what is going on,” McCarthy writing. “There is even an extra layer to the procedure which, arguably, is more of a hindrance than a benefit. But otherwise, it’s a fresh, quirky and disarming creation unlike anything you might have seen with a remarkable and often thrilling degree of stylized storytelling.
Anderson’s films have been hit or miss as award-winning players, but comparisons to “The Grand Budapest Hotel” certainly bode well. This film won four Oscars – including Best Score and Best Production Design – and received nine nominations in total. “Grand Budapest” was nominated for Best Picture and earned Anderson himself three nominations, including Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
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