Asteroid City

Director: Wes Anderson
Year Released: 2023
Rating: 2.0

A TV host (Bryan Cranston) "presents" a televised production by playwright Conrad Earp (Edward Norton) that involves recently widowed photographer Augie Steenbeck (Jason Schwartzman, imitating Stanley Kubrick) driving to barely-inhabited Asteroid City with his son Woodrow (Jake Ryan) and three daughters to attend the Junior Stargazer convention hosted by Dr. Hickenlooper (Tilda Swinton) where he meets (and takes pictures of) actress Midge (Scarlett Johansson) and then an alien (Jeff Goldblum) shows up, steals a meteorite and they all have to go into quarantine; there's also behind-the-scenes footage involving the making of the show.  It's kind of Mr. Anderson's version of Our Town (with a crispy pastel palette) except he's considerably overextended himself: there are simply too many characters he's trying to juggle and he doesn't have enough time to develop them in a substantive way, leaving the appearances by Adrien Brody, Hong Chau, Willem Dafoe and Margot Robbie feeling like slightly extended cameos.  This was "inspired" by the COVID-19 pandemic - the inhabitants understandably freak out when they're told they can't leave - and there's an air of despair ("Maybe we are doomed") looming overhead, but that goes against Wes' true nature and might explain why this is so scatterbrained - he's more in his comfort zone watching prodigious youngsters play the "name game" from Satyajit Ray's Days and Nights in the Forest....