Asteroid City

Asteroid City
Asteroid City
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A science fair brings along with it a load of junior stargazers, their parents and friends plus the military. It will change their lives forever. At least that is what the playwright thinks should be the plot for his untitled play, according to a TV narrator who tells viewers at home about the playwright, actors, director, and issues behind the scene staging the play. Asteroid City is made up of three different narratives simultaneously. That’s right folks, this is a film…within another film…and within another one. Auteur Wes Anderson delivers his most abstract cinematic endeavor yet. Though a lot to take in and sometimes perplexing, it is daringly creative and replete with good humor.

In black and white film (narrator-Bryan Cranston), he addresses directly into camera while standing on a set in front of him which illustrates Conrad Earp’s isolated cabin(him played by Edward Norton). He is hard at work putting together his new play but there are some obstacles he has to overcome. Earp isn’t sure where exactly he will take his story but he knows broadly about characters & themes involved in it. Further more, he contemplates over cast and director Thoughts like these will come later on him at some time as well as they would soon be revealed when he starts typing earnestly.

In living color Augie Steenbeck(Jason Schwartzman) a war photographer drives to an auto shop out in deserted desert.Augie is accompanied by Woodrow(Jake Ryan), his teenage son who has been nicknamed ‘Braniac’ due to his genius level intelligence.Then there are three little girls somewhere not far from nowhere intended for Junior Stargazers competition.To host this event Asteroid City was chosen because of its meteor crater.Hank(Matt Dillon), an automotive mechanic become comedy tells Augie that car will cost him much money before it could be fixed.

Augie takes them to a diner for lunch. He calls Stanley Zak(Tom Hanks), his father in-law, to brief him about the situation. He’s on his way to pick them up. While sitting at the counter Augie notices Midge Campbell(Scarlett Johansson)the famous actress from a film. She is accompanied by her intelligent daughter Dinah(Grace Edwards). Before giving them the terrible news Augie fed their stomachs with foods. Their dear mother passed away some weeks back but he just couldn’t tell them.

In black and white, we return to Earp’s cabin back at the TV studio where the Narrator picks up from last time we saw him there.The playwright gets an unexpected visit from a bit actor (Schwartzman) who wants to portray Augie.He has a different idea about the character and what should happen next for this play.Then, we cut to see entire town including all Junior Stargazers come by as well as religious teacher(Maya Hawke)and her pupils singing cowboy (Rupert Friend), head scientist (Tilda Swinton), and General Grif Gibson(Jeffrey Wright). Following this motel manager(Steve Carell) leads everyone to their bungalows.Excitement fills Woodrow’s heart while sadness engulfs him as competition begins in earnest.All are looking forward to observing another rare celestial event happening the following day.

Did that make any sense? Asteroid City doesn’t spell out these key details in its complex narrative. One must pay full attention so as not to be confused.Narrator does not explain anything.He only narrates whatever happens after it has happened.Anderson made sure that he hilariously departs from convention showing up in town like this.This annoys actors, who are playing characters actually staging show.As such process was highly surrealistic there was a perfunctory nod and wink towards it.

The second act of Astor City goes deep. Schubert Green (Adrien Brody) is introduced as a director who recently split with his wife and wants a popular actress (Johansson) to co-star with the little known lead. Consequently, he decides to spend the period of his divorce in the theater’s backstage. In fact, this information has nothing to do with the play at all. As for each member of the ensemble, in Asteroid City everyone receives rawhide. It reveals so much but sometimes appears like extra padding.

The primary story arc in the desert is not short on details or facts whatsoever. Such an edit which was slimmer and more concise would make the plot crispier even though it may take away some “craziness” from its content.

Cinematography and production design are great in Asteroid City. Rich character development by Anderson is matched by appropriate sets and backgrounds. The narrator together with Earp who are shown in black and white pictures represent nuts and bolts anchors of the film Farid went insane once he reached town that led him to see things differently because they were cleverly designed using screaming colors which created a contrast for Gatlot’s head-scratching moments . On top of this Anderson uses props that are also very imaginative for children such as Jet packs, beam shooters, and even a hot plate.

Asteroid City will undeniably enthuse Anderson’s fans. There is something about seeing his usual veteran cast put into wacky situations that we find comforting somehow familiar. However, general audiences might not get it due to its abstractness. Character overload plus convoluted storyline confuses people since actors keep hopping into different parts of play leaving us puzzled where one ends while other starts playing themselves out thus underpinning what Ibsen’s Ghosts tried to do; this self-criticism comes when Turturro tells Blankenship that it does not make any sense.

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