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“Welcome junior star gazers and space cadets!”: Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City captures the underlying innocence of human experience and the world unknown

“Trust your curiosity”

I love Wes Anderson movies because not only are they so well thought-out in a way that is always a sequential layered masterpiece that comes together beautifully in the end, but because there’s always a subtle (and often weird) love story and a thread of youthful innocence intertwined within Anderson’s strange but lovable perception of whichever world he happens to be portraying like in Moonrise Kingdom and The Grand Budapest Hotel; Anderson can make the most mundane thing feel like the coolest, cutest, most perfect thing in the world with his artistic eye, which has me always coming back for more. Oh, and the music is brilliantly orchestrated leaving one feeling any range of emotions at any moment.

In the case of his latest Asteroid City, that was apparently inspired by Covid quarantine and people being stuck in the desert, it is actually a play within a movie. What is interesting is we get a scope of both the story being told on stage aka Asteroid City (the play) along with the backstory behind the scenes with actors, director, etc—it seems confusing but it’s actually not really at all once you’re into it; everything is perfectly laid out for the viewer in a 3 act series narrated by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad).

Another thing you must know about Wes Anderson movies is that there’s usually the same familiar faces making their awaited appearance, which to me is one of the best parts of all his productions. I’m always like, “wait a second, I’ve seen that guy before!” This time it’s 1955 and Jason Schwartzman stars as a war photographer Augie Steenbeck who is recently widowed and driving his 4 kids in the Middle of Nowhere, Arizona trying to make it just in time for Asteroid Day (every September 23 by the way commemorating 3007 BC)—which is the movie’s version of a sort of “Space Camp” awarding the brainiest kids aka the “Junior Stargazers” for their inventions for modern day space (like: these kids are really smart though, almost too smart!).

After a series of rare out-of-this-world events, Asteroid Day becomes way more than anyone had anticipated for. As you can imagine, the event unravels into multiple sub stories including a visit from aliens, a very important (yet somehow unimportant) asteroid, government mandated quarantines, treason, a much-deserved scholarship, and a cast that IMHO has some of the best actors ever including Scarlett Johansson, Fisher Stevens, Steve Carell, Matt Dillon, Tom Hanks, Tilda Swinton–even Margot Robbie pops in for a bit!

Not only is the story interesting and nothing like I have ever seen before, but the soundtrack features original songs from the 50s era by Tex Ritter, Slim Whitman, and there is of course Asteroid City‘s composer Alexandre Desplat who did the score. One of the songs features the cast singing called “Dear Alien (Who Art In Heaven)” that had the audience cracking up. Overall, if you don’t take yourself too seriously, go see Anderson’s latest; I am willing to bet you’ll be glad that you did.

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Kaitlin Duffy is a writer from Cleveland. When she's not blogging or pondering the great complexities of the world and outer space, she is finding rare vinyl steals, visiting new places, laughing often, Instagramming everything in sight, watching movies, or working on her first feature Port de Cleve.