It feels as though Wes Anderson peaked somewhere around GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL and has been offering diminishing returns ever since. To be sure, ASTEROID CITY isn't quite as pointless as THE FRENCH DISPATCH but it isn't far off. The film looks beautiful. It is as full of Wes Anderson being Wes Anderson as ever. But at what point do we just say, "Halt! Enough!" Because of all this useless beauty becomes merely self-parody if it doesn't also make us feel.
Maybe the problem is that the stuff that is meant to make us feel has been done before, many times, by Wes Anderson. The self-cannibalisation just feels lazy. How often can we watch a film about the awkwardness and sweetness of first love? We've already seen it done better in MOONRISE KINGDOM and indeed in GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, but with way more consequence in the latter. The story of a widower struggling to tell his kids about their mother's death and calling in his father to help is also ripped straight out of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS. Ask yourself if Jason Schwartzman's emotional crisis, which barely registers on screen, moves you as much as Ben Stiller's manic energy in TENENBAUMS? Everywhere I looked at this film I saw pale dilutions of ideas already worked and reworked. And nothing approaching the mournful or comedic heights of the best of Anderson's oeuvre. It's like watching the last two decades of Woody Allen knowing that MANHATTAN was once possible.
ASTEROID CITY is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 105 minutes. It played Cannes 2023 and opened last month.