Asteroid City is the most Wes Anderson film yet
It’s incredible to think that it’s taken so long for Wes Anderson to work with Tom Hanks. There’s something about the neat but vibrant aesthetic of Anderson’s films that would seemingly go hand-in-hand with the soft and gentle exterior that Hanks tends to project. The former certainly hasn’t kept anything back with Asteroid City, to the point that it might even be accused of being a bit too Wes Anderson, but it’s offset by the latter not being very Tom Hanks at all.
Set in the 50s, Asteroid City is effectively Anderson’s love letter to the films he grew up with. There are flashes of John Ford westerns, Steven Spielberg sci-fi and Wim Wenders romance. Everything is held together though by the synergy of Anderson’s signature style - to an overwhelming degree.
The dialogue of Asteroid City is perhaps where it’s most intrusive. Every conversation becomes stilted because of it, and it becomes difficult to pay any attention to what anyone’s saying because it’s stylised to such an extent that it dominates all critical thought. That said, it builds to a point where it becomes refreshing when characters start to talk in a more natural way. If that’s on purpose, then it actually fits its brief beautifully. If it’s not, then it’s still a really nice effect that creates an interesting experience.
That’s a thread that runs all the way through Asteroid City. It’s heightened and stylised to the point that it creates an overwhelming effect that it’s supposed to. Tom Hanks stands out as playing the opposite of what we’re used to seeing him as because that’s what we’re supposed to be thinking about, and there are endless other examples of other bits that are supposed to scream “You’re watching a film” at us. It’s absolutely jarring, but that’s the experience that we’re supposed to be having, right up to the moment when we’re not anymore.
Personally, I spent most of the film wondering what on earth I was watching and why any of it mattered. Then it all became clear. It’s a test of endurance in the sense that we have to put up with an extended period of doubt to get there, but surely at this point in his career, Wes Anderson has earned the credit that allows us to just go with it.