Asteroid City (2023)
June 18, 2023 6:00 AM - Subscribe

The itinerary of a Junior Stargazer convention is spectacularly disrupted by world-changing events.

Manohla Dargis, New York Times: Our Town and Country
The colors are mesmerizing and ever-so-gently destabilizing. These pigments signal that you’ve entered a new fictional realm that, like the television studio, is at once immediately recognizable and somehow foreign. The interplay between the familiar and the strange, like that between the theatrical and the cinematic, is a foundational theme in Anderson’s films, which, like most movies, look a lot like life yet are always different. What makes that difference is art — the voice, sensibility, technique, craft, money, luck and how the thrilling, terrifying mess of existence is gathered, organized and then set loose upon the world.
Laws and Rules of the Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner shorts
posted by thecaddy (37 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
I loved it. This is one of the few films that was made exactly for me, right down to cowboy Jarvis Cocker.
posted by betweenthebars at 11:08 AM on June 19, 2023 [3 favorites]


1. My admiration for Anderson and his movies is a teensy bit embarrassing.
2. This was a fantastic movie.
3. There's a solid dollop of mate-narrative to it that I did not entirely parse but that was not tedious. (Come to think of it there is the whole lecture by T.Swinton's character in "The French Dispatch" that is a bit of a pre-cursor.)
4. This was a thoroughly enjoyable movie. My wife didn't really care for it, but then again she's always kind of lukewarm on his movies (and I think we've seen all of them as they've come out.)
5. In all the ways people have come to expect of Anderson's movies, it is a thoroughly Anderson movie - for better and worse.
6. I liked Tom Hanks, more than I expected to.
7. The group that make up the Junior Stargazers were pretty terrific as a depiction of kids who are doing things a bit to the side of what their peers are doing.
... in some ways it was what "Life Aquatic" might have been. "Life Aquatic" has a lot going for it, a lot, but this was tighter in a lot of ways.
(8. If you don't like this movie, you probably kicks puppies... which, now that you mention it - no dog or cat dies. Hm.)
posted by From Bklyn at 11:12 AM on June 19, 2023 [6 favorites]


We did not catch Jarvis in the movie itself, but my wife spotted his name in the credits as the washboard player and said, “there can’t be more than one Jarvis Cocker, can there?” And the answer is no, there is only one Jarvis Cocker, and yes, he’s singing a song over the traditional credits.

Of Anderson’s previous movies, it is closest to Life Aquatic: the staginess of the sets, the more-mannered-than-usual performances. This worked a lot better for me, though. It could be that it’s a tighter, better film; it may just be that I’ve got two more decades of experience since I saw it. Asteroid City is likewise about the pursuit of the sublime, and the human desire to conquer it, but with a lighter touch (Anderson has twenty more years of experience, too). And as usual, the adults don’t know any more about what’s happening than the kids do.

One of the grade schoolers mentions seeing a coyote getting flattened by an eighteen-wheeler in his prayer, which ties the movie even closer to Chuck Jones than the color palette and setting.* Wile E. Coyote is a fanatic, never pausing in his pursuit of the road runner and racking up injury after injury because of it. Gravity is his least favorite law of physics. We don’t see the most restful night of sleep in the characters’ lives in the movie—that’s when we dip out back stage—but I think a lot of the themes of the movie turn on the tensions between reaching for the stars and cherishing the small moments.

*Also, the stop-motion alien stealing the asteroid is easily the hardest I’ve laughed in years.
posted by thecaddy at 5:30 AM on June 22, 2023 [1 favorite]


I am going to be the rare "meh" then, I guess. And it's not even a "meh" - I laughed at and enjoyed several points. I think those several points just didn't gel into a single story for me, and that was my biggest disapointment.

(The alien was one place I laughed - as well as the acting class scenes, which were spot-on for a Stanislavsky Method go-up-your-own-ass drama workshop.)

....Someone please tell me that a coyote joined things in the post-credits scene or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:30 PM on June 22, 2023 [1 favorite]




I love the impeccable surface, and the impeccable connective tissue below that surface, but below that is a layer where this didn't add up for me. I don't know what we gained from the metatextual level; going back to the author writing the play didn't add any resonances for me. Also, the grief of the main character and the death of the author are just indicated rather than felt.

I think it's revealing that the one time in Wes Anderson's canon that I felt a genuine current of emotion — namely, Moonrise Kingdom — was the one time he fully gave himself over to a pet motif that also appears in Asteroid City: namely, two very young adolescent misfits falling in love. It suggests that Anderson fuels his art by indulging in immature emotions, and that all he can do with the emotions of adulthood is simulate their outward appearances. And I get it! You can make ironic candyland melancholy out of the travails of a precocious 14-year-old much more easily than you can make anything out of the anxieties of a 42-year-old.

The problem comes when he tries to build a movie on more mature emotional experiences; he can only be glib rather than articulate.

Still, I think he's getting closer. I still cringe at the pseudo-sophistication of The Mighty Tennenbaums and think this is a step forward.
posted by argybarg at 9:22 AM on June 24, 2023 [5 favorites]


The problem comes when he tries to build a movie on more mature emotional experiences; he can only be glib rather than articulate.

I am generally not an Anderson fan, probably not even going to see this one, but I would argue that the framing narrative in the Jeffrey Wright section of French Dispatch is an exception here. In case it matters. But that may be more down to the actor.
posted by praemunire at 10:05 AM on June 24, 2023


Overall, I liked it—strong middle-of-the-pack showing for Wes. I didn’t love it as much as Moonrise Kingdom or The French Dispatch, but it didn’t bounce off of me the way Zissou did.

The play framing AND the TV movie AND the actual movie seemed like a lot. I kind of wish he’d chosen one or the other—I would have preferred the main movie, but I can see where a behind-the-scenes drama would have appealed to him. It did push him out of his comfort zone of writing about cute kids.

The casting was a bit hit-and-miss for me. I wish he brought back Owen Wilson to play Conrad Earp, since Norton’s performance just seemed like a weak Owen Wilson impersonation. I also wish he cast Kara Hayward as June, since Hayward can actually act—Maya Hawke just clenched her jaw, flared her nostrils, and read her lines in a stentorian voice.

I loved the roadrunner and was disappointed it didn’t go “meep meep” in its final onscreen appearance.
posted by pxe2000 at 3:19 PM on June 24, 2023 [2 favorites]


It's a beautiful film, visually, but stilted acting, characters, and writing made it feel like the most Wes Anderson movie a Wes Anderson AI could make. It's like all the ingredients are there but just thrown together.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 9:22 PM on June 25, 2023


I saw it yesterday with a friend, and he made a great point: it feels more like Wes Anderson's thesis on movie-making than anything else -- like his answer to critics who complain his movies have too much artifice, or aren't realistic enough.

Especially the moment where the actors all shout "You can't wake up if you don't go to sleep."

I'm not sure whether I liked it or not. I'm not sure the movie was trying to do what other Wes Anderson movies do -- especially his early movies. But I'm not sure it wasn't trying to do what those movies do, too. It just seemed to be trying to do more.

I need to think on what it was doing and saying, I guess, before I can decide whether it was effective.
posted by heyitsgogi at 1:53 PM on June 26, 2023 [3 favorites]


I enjoyed it very much. It has a lot of great moments and so many layers of detail that you'd almost need to step through it a frame at a time to take them all in.

I haven't decided how I feel about the relationship between the play-within-the-play and the play. Is that purely decorative or is there some meaning to it? There was some lampshade-hanging going on with the framing play, pointing out its own artifice (and by extension, the artifice in all Wes Anderson's work, perhaps). Jason Schwartzman arriving in Earp's office, tearing off his mustache, padding his shirt to look fatter, leaving and coming back a moment later with a beard. The one-sided dialog delivered by Margot Robbie in the balcony scene, visually echoing the dialogs between Schwartzman and Johansson throughout the movie.

On the way home from the theater, my wife and I got held up by a passing freight train. I whistled a few notes from "Freight Train." That was good for another laugh.
posted by adamrice at 12:00 PM on June 28, 2023 [2 favorites]


I just saw this last night, and I loved it. I haven't seen a ton of Wes Anderson movies, and was saying to a colleague today that maybe if I had already seen everything of his, that this one would have seemed like too much WesAndersoneyness?

But as it is, I really enjoyed everything about it. The look, the color palette, the metafictional layer of the TV broadcast and the play/actors, the casting, the characters, the very specific iconography. The alien's body language and facial expressions. The kid's song about the alien. The whole deal.

I liked the stiltedness, and the indicating instead of feeling, which all felt on purpose to, not like a missed swing at a more typical and naturalistic pitch. And I liked how it didn't all add up to a single story--which EmpressCallipygos sees as a flaw above, but I really loved.

To me, it was--in the best way!--a lovingly shuffled set of those brightly-colored, slightly printed-out-of-register postcards from the 1950s diners & tourist spots along desert stretches of Route 66, with a wholesome cowboy riding a giant jackrabbit or something. Like-- Variety complained about the movie being "inert", whereas before I read that review I enthusiastically described the movie as "static". Two words in the same ballpark, but theirs is a criticism, and mine is pleased. I liked the gentle vignette structure, I liked the metafictional layers, I never got bored, and I savored all the eye candy.
posted by theatro at 7:24 AM on June 29, 2023 [4 favorites]


FWIW, I saw this at the Alamo Drafthouse, and as part of their pre-show, they played a bit from this episode of Playhouse 90, which the movie seemed to be quoting.
posted by adamrice at 5:20 PM on June 29, 2023


I was so very disappointed in this. Too many characters, too little development of said characters or any narrative tension. What happens? Who changes? Why does any of it matter?

The only plot that seemed worth developing was the Tom Hanks character and the Jason Schwartzman character and the kids. On further reflection, the movie should've been just the three little girls casting spells at the alien and running around being annoying to the military and the scientists.

All of the "movie is really a play" meta structure just took me out of it.

Yes, it was beautifully shot and I had a few chuckles here and there, but nothing stuck. Huge cast of A-listers more or less completely wasted.

For a movie that was less than two hours, holy crap it DRAGGED.

I really had higher hopes for this. This had all the issues of The French Dispatch, but moreso.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:28 PM on June 29, 2023 [6 favorites]


I think this works for me if I take it as an allegory of the pandemic. Something shocking happens, everyone has to quarantine, it’s heightened while it’s happening but then it ends and mostly we’re not a lot different on the outside.

And then there’s the layer of questioning meaning and purpose and value that many people experienced, with the oddness of then just returning to whatever regular life is.
posted by jeoc at 8:15 PM on June 30, 2023 [8 favorites]


I saw the film last Thursday, and little details have been coming back and occasionally making me laugh out loud. Today I went to see the exhibition of props, costumes and sets on The Strand (a lot thinner than the French Dispatch exhibition, which isn't surprising, as that had so much more in it, but it's lovely to see things like the train model - I missed the missile in the movie itself, the road runner up close, the vending machines and so forth). I think I might be completely in love with the film.

One thing that only just struck me is that the Asteroid City in the film is the movie version - many of the gags and a lot of the mise-en-scene are perfect evocations of early sixties Hollywood comedy - for example, the shot with the Steenbecks carrying their luggage across the road to the motel as the other guests arrive. I currently have an entirely imaginary 1965 version running round in my head, with Jason Robards as Augie Steenbeck, Kim Novak as Midge Campbell and Spencer Tracy as Stanley Zak. I don't know who'd have directed - Frank Tashlin? Stanley Donen? Who can say? I may be losing touch with reality.
posted by Grangousier at 3:55 PM on July 2, 2023 [1 favorite]


I enjoyed it a lot. This was my first Wes Anderson movie, and I don't think it necessarily makes me want to watch any of his other movies, but without having any other context to try to put it in, I liked it for what it was.

Two years ago at this same time of year, a storm blew through and knocked out our power for a few days. We went to see Black Widow, mainly to sit in some air conditioning, and were entertained but also felt it could have been a better movie if it hadn't come after the stupid Thanos movies and the character getting fridged.

We also saw this one because a storm blew through and knocked out our power and we wanted to sit in some air conditioning, and it looked like it'd be fun.

But I'm starting to suspect Scarlett Johansson of sabotaging the power grid just to get us to see her movies.
posted by Foosnark at 6:01 AM on July 3, 2023 [7 favorites]


the layer of questioning meaning and purpose and value that many people experienced

I liked this theme, but thought it got smeared away a bit. The movie seemed to be more about showing off the look they came up with, at some point they were more concerned about using the right font and Pantone color than in actually doing anything.

As I was walking out, I was thinking about A Serious Man by the Coen brothers, and how that movie tweaked that theme in a way I liked a lot.

All of the "movie is really a play" meta structure just took me out of it.

Agree with this 100%. I started to cringe every time poor Bryan Cranston popped up as the announcer.
posted by gimonca at 6:18 AM on July 3, 2023 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed this! I don't think I've ever seen a Wes Anderson movie at the cinema before but I think it really helps when you're immersed in this world.

I liked the theatrical framing, I think my favourite moment was when all the actors fell ostentatiously asleep. I think this article What Wes Anderson’s framing device is all about gets it.
Compare the sad and touching conversations between Augie and Midge with the one in the "real world" of the play's making, where we see a marital drama unfold between a stage director (Adrien Brody) and his estranged wife (Hong Chao). The latter all takes place in the theater's backstage and is shot explicitly as a stagey filmed play. The walls are bare wood walls, and Brody mimes punching a punching bag even when there is an actual punching bag five feet to his right. It's all flat and absurd.

But Augie and Stanley and Midge all exist in a world that, as Wes Anderson-fancified up as it might be, feels far more authentic in the experience of it. There is dirt on their shoes and sweat on their brows and color in their cheeks. It's a magnificent sleight of hand that comes straight at the critical accusations that the hyper-stylization of Wes Anderson films distance us from his characters. "You wanna see distance? I will show you distance," Anderson seems to be saying.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 6:50 AM on July 3, 2023 [10 favorites]


I'm sure in the background of one scene, there was literally a set of Pantone swatches, like flags or signs or something.

Still [over]thinking about it. Very much want to see it again.
posted by Grangousier at 8:32 AM on July 3, 2023 [1 favorite]


Today I went to see the exhibition of props, costumes and sets on The Strand (a lot thinner than the French Dispatch exhibition, which isn't surprising, as that had so much more in it, but it's lovely to see things like the train model - I missed the missile in the movie itself, the road runner up close, the vending machines and so forth). I think I might be completely in love with the film.

Where was this??? This is a thing I'd like to see (I doubt I can but still).
posted by From Bklyn at 12:04 AM on July 5, 2023


Sorry - the exhibition is here - on The Strand in London.

For the last few Anderson films there's been an exhibition of items from the film there - the first one I saw was Isle of Dogs, that I wandered into by accident. I remember it being free, and it was quite limited. Then there was a much more extensive exhibition for The French Dispatch - since it had all those different stories in it, that meant a lot of props and models and drawings and stuff, so that one was slightly (but joyously) overstuffed. This one is in between. Everything is ... a real thing rather than a model of a thing. The contract that you see for a couple of seconds on screen is fully typed out (at least the first page is) in coherent if bewildering sentences; the clothes are beautiful (and the actors smaller than you think they'll be); The vending machines don't work, but look as though they should (including the COCKTAIL machine, with the martini shaker in it); the floor of Midge's motel room is curiously shaped (on different levels, so the camera can see her sitting at the window and also lying in the bath, which is higher up than the floor by the window. It's all tiled, though).

Although we didn't stop there, on the way out there's a pop-up diner modelled after the one in the film (for The French Dispatch it was Le Sans Blague café). I expect it served very expensive strawberry milks.

I hope all this stuff is being stored carefully somewhere, as I really think there could be a Wes Anderson Museum one day. Personally I'd situate it in the Chilterns somewhere (Roald Dahl country), so you'd have to take the train out of Marylebone (London's dinkiest terminus), and include the train ticket in the entry price, so it was all part of the experience. I've thought it through, worryingly, and if I ever win the EuroMillions it will happen.
posted by Grangousier at 12:32 AM on July 5, 2023 [2 favorites]


I loved it. The meta-framing, for me, seemed too be an acknowledgement that all art (maybe Wes Anderson's art more than most) is fake, and really can only hint at reality. There were several allusions to the idea that we can't make sense of life, but all we can do is continue telling stories, which is the next best thing.

I loved Jeff Goldblum's cameo as the alien, trying to explain the character's motivation when it was clearly just in there to be absurd. It's like a signpost saying "don't read too much into any of this, guys."

That said, I reject the suggestion that Anderson's movies are emotionless. Rather, I would say that his movies are populated with characters who have used their intellects to mask and suppress their emotions. But the emotions are there, and at rare and nuanced times, they come through. (The perfect example is Ben Stiller's "I've had a hard year, Dad" from the end of Royal Tenenbaums.) Here, there were multiple relationships that involved the struggle to connect. Most impressive for me was Liev Schreiber's scene with his son (who asks people to dare him to do crazy things because otherwise he fears he will be ignored) - you can see him try to understand and connect, get part of the way there, and fail.

I'm still puzzling over the repeated line near the end ("You can't wake up if you don't fall asleep"), and my current theory is that it's nonsense, meant to poke fun both at the acting class for trying to be pseudo-deep, and also at the audience for trying to make sense out of something that has none.

Certainly not a perfect movie, but probably in my top 3 of Anderson's works, and one I definitely look forward to watching again.
posted by Ben Trismegistus at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2023 [5 favorites]


Asteroid City is a great movie, and its failure is if nothing else, self-aware. It's a movie about a movie about a guy whose emotions are locked up behind a bunch of mannerisms. But despite trying, he ultimately never succeeds in breaking through that self-imposed barrier; his best lines are delivered by someone else, and the actor -- both diegetically and extra-diegetically -- fails to achieve (or declines to attempt) the difficult task of emoting through it. It's really, really hard to stick the landing on meta-textual narratives like this -- PKD rarely succeeded, and only Charlie Kaufman (who has spent his life studying every trick and failure of PKD) has regularly managed it. No shame in not making it to that level, or declining to try.
posted by chortly at 10:04 PM on July 19, 2023 [2 favorites]


It's really, really hard to stick the landing on meta-textual narratives like this

The French Lieutenant’s Woman pulled it off exceptionally well, IMHO.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 6:05 AM on July 20, 2023 [2 favorites]


Not to go on about it, but it turns out that Jago Hazzard just made a video about the exhibition for his YouTube channel, which is actually mostly about the train (because he really likes trains), but contains shots from the rest of it. FYI.
posted by Grangousier at 1:24 PM on July 21, 2023 [1 favorite]


I really want someone with more patience than I have to do an essay that braids together and pulls apart the similarities and differences between what Wes Anderson was up to here and what Jordan Peele was doing with Nope.
posted by umbú at 9:25 PM on July 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


Also, Ben Trismegistus, I took the “you can’t wake up if you don’t go to sleep” as something you would see in a heavy handed progressive activist theatre piece from the era, which would fit with the idea in that linked to article about the metaframing that argues that what happens in the fake stylized world is more effective than what happens in the “truer” backstage world.
posted by umbú at 9:33 PM on July 24, 2023 [1 favorite]


Was there anything coyote/roadrunner to the brief cop car chase interruptions? I assume the gravity-loving comment was presaged by the stop motion roadrunner, and framed by the stylized monument valley sets. Is it too on the nose to read it all as a trickster gesture, the emotionally-detached actor as provocateur?
posted by Claude Hoeper at 9:15 PM on August 12, 2023


I've seen it four times and still can't quite rank it in the Wes Anderson oeuvre. (I did score this lunchbox from Alamo Drafthouse at one of the viewings.)

There were two reviews I thought were helpful and two YouTube videos: Finally, Bill Murray did film a faux trailer for the film.
posted by bbrown at 12:41 AM on August 13, 2023 [1 favorite]


> I'm still puzzling over the repeated line near the end ("You can't wake up if you don't fall asleep"), and my current theory is that it's nonsense, meant to poke fun both at the acting class for trying to be pseudo-deep, and also at the audience for trying to make sense out of something that has none.

I took the “you can’t wake up if you don’t go to sleep” as something you would see in a heavy handed progressive activist theatre piece from the era, which would fit with the idea in that linked to article about the metaframing that argues that what happens in the fake stylized world is more effective than what happens in the “truer” backstage world.


Absolutely yes to both of these. My drama studio conservatory training in college was with the Lee Strasberg studio, which was the grand mac-daddy of the big Stanislavsky Method Training Studios from the 1950s and 60s. I was attending through NYU's drama program in the late 1980s and early 1990s; between all the Method Training the studio teachers talked about (including more than a few moments of "when we had Marlon Brando as a student...." reminiscing), and the theater history classes I had about 1950s and 60s agitprop theater, that kind of "you can't wake up if you don't fall asleep" stuff felt VERY, very familiar.

Ironically, a number of the actors IN that scene were also Lee Strasberg alumni themselves.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:32 AM on August 13, 2023 [2 favorites]


Horse's mouth:
That was sort of the context of this scene, but what actually happens in it is still something that happens spontaneously between you and a pencil or a typewriter. You’re waiting for the thing that is also beyond your control to suddenly happen. I will say there’s a theatrical kind of reference to it but I’m hesitant to say it. At some later date, I’ll say it. It’s something that has been adapted. It’ll be more interesting at a later date. Actually when I do tell you, then you’ll see it, and it’ll be interesting. Better to let it simmer for now.
From: Wes Anderson on Asteroid City
posted by bbrown at 10:41 AM on August 13, 2023 [1 favorite]


One thing that struck me watching this a second time is the climactic action scene. We don't think of Anderson as a high-octane action director, but most of his films have a chase scene or something like it, which leads up to the climax like a death, or near death. In this film, the climax comes when the alien returns the meteorite, and the crowd goes a bit wild. But instead of building tension up to & through that scene, we leave through a side door in the crater, and the tension builds as we see an actor trying to understand his motivation, as the emotion of his character's grief is further refracted through another actor's recalling lines, as a room of actors attempts to work through a particular scene, and then at the moment where someone might get run over, or fall off a cliff, we learn that the playwright has died, long ago, and on the heels of that news we get the line - you can't wake up if you don't go to sleep - over and over and over - and then the cessation of it.

People talk about the high artifice of Anderson films, about style over substance, and about how detached the characters seem from their feelings - but I think they're missing how closely he works with incredibly talented actors - one line can convey so much when you have Jason Schwartzman and Adrian Brody facing each other in closeup. Sometimes it doesn't quite work - his animated movies fall flat for me, I think, for that reason - but when it does it's deeply affecting.

So much of our emotional processes are artifice, flights of fancy, layers on layers, stories within stories, that I didn't mind the various breakages in the third wall this time. There are all these thru-lines of varieties of grief connecting the characters (and the characters who play them). And, well, all the things they're grieving are also in the stars.
posted by Isingthebodyelectric at 5:36 PM on October 13, 2023 [2 favorites]


I'm still puzzling over the repeated line near the end ("You can't wake up if you don't fall asleep"), and my current theory is that it's nonsense meant to poke fun [...] at the audience for trying to make sense out of something that has none.

This is such an odd take to have on a phrase that's so literally, obviously (banally?) true. No matter where you let the little skittering flimsies of irony fall, there's none in which the phrase is nonsense.

0) literally true: no waking if no sleeping. if no sleeping, nothing to wake from.
1) 1st order, metaphor: no revelation if no subsuming within the murk / giving yourself over to the dreamwork of the film
2) 2nd order: but this is a film about (among other things) lack of revelation in the face of the cosmic sublime. So maybe we weren't sleeping hard enough?
3) The playwright, and the mother, are certainly sleeping the hardest.
.
.
4) And the three little girls are working their darndest on the wakeup, but I'm not so sure they've really got their spellcraft down. ("The hitch, of course, is that the math doesn't work.")



(Separately, I'd love to see looping video clips of the three little girls' overlapping dialogue moments. Their timing is so amazing I wonder if they split the screen to get it all perfect.)
posted by nobody at 12:34 PM on October 17, 2023 [4 favorites]


Robert Yeoman, cinematographer, and Wes Anderson discuss six frames from the movie in "How Asteroid City Became Wes Anderson’s Most Visually Ambitious Movie Yet".
posted by bbrown at 12:24 PM on December 10, 2023 [1 favorite]


I liked but didn't love it.

It feels a bit aimless and thin to me. The B/W meta-layer especially does maybe not feel quite fully realized or worth it. Like, those little bits do not feel like they add up to anything beyond immediate input back into the in-color story. Nevertheless it overall feels to me like it IS saying something interesting, and it has something like a heart. I don't think it's empty style.

Maybe I'm just feeling generosity of spirit. I wanted all the little romances to work out. I even hope Tom Hanks and Hope Davis found some joy. Even as a Tilda Swinton hater I was touched by Dr Hickenlooper's lonely yearning for a protege.

Most impressive for me was Liev Schreiber's scene with his son... - you can see him try to understand and connect, get part of the way there, and fail.

I think Schreiber DOES understand and connect. He asks why do you play these games; his son answers because he's terrified of being ignored. Schreiber is silent for a moment then goes back to playing along. Of course, the thing the son wants to do is still very stupid.

There is a fair bit of hardass dads easing up that was nice; Hanks with his son-in-law and gdaughters too. I suppose even the government gives up on the quarantine. Though maybe that's just a Wes Anderson thing, to have cold power yield to widdle guys just doing their best.

3) The playwright, and the mother, are certainly sleeping the hardest.

And the verse of that particular version of 'Freight Train': "when he dies, bury him please[...] and tell him he's gone to sleep".

Your meta-layer 1 is basically how I interpreted it. Surprise there's no Wizard of Oz comparisons or is it just too basic.
posted by fleacircus at 12:44 AM on December 18, 2023 [1 favorite]


I finally got around to watching it and the day after I finished it, I forgot I had finished it. I went to finish it and didn't see it in my "continue watching" queue. That sort of sums up how the ending of the film was for me, and the movie in general. It was entertaining enough for me to want to finish it, but the ending just didn't seem to tie anything well enough together to truly make me feel it had finished its tale.

Anderson's obsession with framing is both comforting and almost overbearing. In a way, I appreciated the black and white moments behind the play, which weren't AS structured as the play/film, which also makes sense because its supposed to be reality. There weren't too many characters, but at times, it felt like they were not adequately balanced between the groupings, be it the kid geniuses, the parents, and everyone else.

I think one of my favorite moments was when Schwartzman's character burns his hand on his little range and Scarlett's character reacts, "You really burned your hand?!" It felt very meta, as if the actress playing Scarlett's character had broken character to ask the actor of Schwartzman's character if he had done what he had done. All of this connecting to this idea that everything, including the actors themselves, are part of someone's idea. In this case, it's like a meta-meta perspective of Anderson himself, as the real narrator, narrating the narrator and the playwright, and then the play, and the actors, who are really just characters to begin with, given by their appearance in the crowd of the acting class.

When the playwright dies, it's really just Anderson giving up on the story itself, and so the story ends with just a tidy, "Well, we didn't see a reason to keep you all here." That's almost like a direction to the audience, why keep us around if this is all there is, now go on home now.

The question is, did Anderson really give up on the story, or was this just part of the story.

In the end, I liked it, but not as much as past films.
posted by Atreides at 7:59 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


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