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Winona State University's Newspaper since 1919

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Asteroid City: More than Just Style

Lucy Severson
Wes Anderson’s newest film “Asteriod City” was released on June 16th, 2023. It has a clear stylistic flair, but still carries the emotional sincerity only Anderson can create. Illustration by Lucy Severson

You may know him for his perky pastels, deadpan deliveries and stunning center framing. You’ll likely recognize some of his hit films including “The Royal Tenenbaums” (2001), “Fantastic Mr. Fox” (2009) or “The Grand Budapest Hotel” (2015). Or maybe you know him from the recent TikTok trend embracing his unique style. If you haven’t quite figured it out yet, we’re talking about Wes Anderson.

Anderson’s latest film, “Asteroid City”, is his most Wes Anderson style film to date. It’s almost as if the film is a parody of his own work. If you thought “Grand Budapest” was saturated, think again. If you thought “The French Dispatch” had a big cast, just watch the first twenty minutes of this movie. Anderson’s craft is dialed all the way up, leading some critics to find this film leaning too heavily into style rather than substance.

While there is a clear stylistic flair to the film, it is not incomplete without meaning. What people seem to forget about Wes Anderson’s films is the complex emotional characters he portrays. Anderson loves telling stories about social outcasts wandering through life, and this film is no different. It primarily takes place in a discarded town in the middle of nowhere filled with dreamers, loners and lovers.

But this is not where the film starts. We open on a black-and-white image in a square aspect ratio. Bryan Cranston introduces us to playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton), who is writing a play called “Asteroid City.” You may be thinking ‘This is not what I saw in the trailer!’ That is correct, but the story progresses. “Asteroid City” (the film) has a bit of a Russian nesting doll plot. It’s a television program about a playwright, then it’s about the director of the stage play, then it’s a film recreation of said play. Are you with me still? The meta layers of Anderson’s latest film are certainly part of its charm, but the real meat lies when we’re in the fictional town of Asteroid City with Conrad’s play realized in film form.

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A youth astronomy convention is held in Asteroid City, an all-American desert town complete with a diner, a gas station and a motor inn. Here, a group of misfit Junior Stargazers and Space Cadets show off their scientific creations and form a bond with one another. One such stargazer, Woodrow (Jake Ryan), finds connection with one of his fellow space cadets Dinah (Grace Edwards). While this is happening, Woodrow’s father Auggie (Jason Schwartzman), a war photographer, finds a touch of romance with Dinah’s mom Midge Campbell (Scarlett Johansson) a Hollywood star longing for more in life. All of this is turned on its head when an extra-terrestrial life form enters our story.

On the surface, “Asteroid City” is a sci-fi western mashup questioning what would happen if an alien visited a desert town in the middle of nowhere filled with a group of space science enthusiasts, but there’s more to it than a simple UFO landing laid out in pretty saturated colors. Anderson’s newest flick is a crafty genre blend with a nuanced story about finding love in surprising places.

Wes Anderson’s newest film “Asteriod City” was released on June 16th, 2023. It has a clear stylistic flair, but still carries the emotional sincerity only Anderson can

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About the Contributors
Cassandra Bauer
Cassandra Bauer, Film Reviewer
Cassandra Bauer (she/her/hers) is the Film Reviewer for The Winonan and started in Fall 2022. She is currently a third-year at Winona State University majoring in Film Studies and minoring in Journalism and Creative Digital Media. Outside of the Winonan, Bauer likes going to local coffee shops, attending yoga classes, reading celebrity memoirs, and of course watching movies. She also loves spending time with her friends, working at the movie theater in her hometown, and playing tennis.
Lucy Severson
Lucy Severson, News Reporter
Lucy Severson is an illustrator and news reporter for the Winonan. She is a second year at Winona State and is majoring in English: Writing and minoring in Film. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her cat, Zazu, attending concerts as much as humanly possible, and eating copious amounts of ramen.  Before working on the Winonan, she worked as a news reporter and illustrator for the Hamline University Oracle. She currently works for the Winona 7, where she enjoys watching movies and eating popcorn to her heart’s content.  When she graduates from Winona State University, she hopes to pursue a career as an author of YA fiction!

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