Up until recently, kitschy symmetrical rooms and pastel hues were on their way out. Peckham roof-top bar Franks’ lurid blush stairwell had become faded by a thousand phone flashes – and when uber-aesthetic London restaurant Sketch finally stripped out all of the pastel pink velvet from its rotund seats last year, it felt like the final death knell.
Now, however, the tide is turning, and it’s down to one man: Wes Anderson. The director’s upcoming film Asteroid City – his first foray into sci-fi, which premiered at Cannes Film Festival on May 23 – has inspired a wave of creative TikTokkers to Wes-ify their everyday lives.
Even the cast of Asteroid City are now joining in with the fun, officially completing the circle by Wes-ifying their Cannes press junket with the help of TikTokker @guywithamoviecamera. A slightly giddying array of stars – Bryan Cranston, Scarlet Johansson, Rupert Friend, Maya Hawke, Jason Schwartzman and Jake Ryan, Steve Park, and Jeffery Wright – all take part, gamely holding potted plants, snapping analogue cameras, and sitting motionless in symmetrically-positioned chairs. As you might expect, given the calibre of Anderson talent involved in the parody video, it’s incredibly accurate.
“You better not be acting like you’re in a Wes Anderson movie with the cast of his new film,” reads the opening caption, in a direct nod to the trend.
Wes Anderson films have an instantly recogniseable style: rapid camera pans, gaudy colour palettes, dolls-house building fronts and symmetry. Then there is the costumes. From the distinctive outfits of the dysfunctional family at the centre of 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums - think Ben Stiller and his sons’ matching bright red tracksuits, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s trademark tennis dresses – to the cutesy blue uniforms worn by the submarine crew of 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
Anderson’s films unfold in a unique, slightly cartoonish version of reality where everything is that bit more beautiful. Think of the decadent frontage of The Grand Budapest Hotel, or the director’s lush, otherworldly look at New England for Moonrise Kingdom.
Though Anderson has obviously been at it for years – ever since his 1996 directorial debut Bottle Rocket, to be exact – his aesthetic first made its way onto TikTok at the beginning of April this year thanks to a US user called Ava Williams. While commuting into New York from her family’s house in Connecticut, Williams paired carefully aligned interior shots of her near-empty carriage along the Shoreline East with Alexandre Desplat’s jangling harpsichord instrumental from Anderson’s 2021 film The French Dispatch.
Titled Girl on a Train, the 24-second clip has over 2.3 million likes. It couldn’t be further from the claustrophobic, coffee-breath waft of rush hour in reality, and that carefully manicured look is a huge part of the trend’s appeal. “Metro North has never looked this good,” commented one approving viewer.
As Williams later told Rolling Stone: “I wasn’t super pleased that I had to go to work. I was tired and I wished I was with my family, and there I was on this train. But I didn’t want to end this really great trip on such a sour note, and I don’t want to be like, I’m a victim of the world. So I decided I should romanticise this moment or make the most of this moment.”
Another early, Anderson-inspired clip saw Londoner Keith Afadi giving a similar treatment to a visit to UK chain restaurant Honest Burger – and tapping into the idiosyncratic humour of Anderson’s work with a shot that sees him batting away his wife’s hand as she tries to pinch a rosemary salt fry. For anybody who has ever frequented the Brixton-founded burger spot, it’s a reflex that makes perfect sense.
Inevitably, the feeble early splutters of summer have inspired those jetting off on holiday to Wes-ify various destinations, along variations of the tagline: you better not turn our trip into a Wes Anderson film. As it turns out, Lisbon’s bright yellow funiculars, Positano’s colourful cliffsides, and Budapest’s Art Nouveau-style Gellért Baths are all just far too tempting.
If you spot any bobble-hat wearing TikTokkers slowly processing across an aesthetically pleasing road in the near future, there’s a decent chance they’re Wes-ifying.
Still, even as Anderson fans attempt to gloss over the more unpleasant or mundane aspects of everyday life, reality can’t help creeping into certain takes on the trend. Jen Lucas, who runs the TikTok account Jen and Evee, was filming an Anderson-style quaint montage of coffee-making and teeth-brushing when she inadvertently captured the moment she discovered she had been laid off at work. “I debated if I should even post this, but if you got laid off too just know you’re not alone,” reads the caption. Brianna Thompson, who posts under the @hercontentdiary handle, created a satirical film about tidying a bedroom while depressed. “I’ve never watched a Wes Anderson movie in my life,” reads the final shot.
Surprisingly, Thompson isn’t the only person jumping on the trend from this standpoint. Despite videos often posing as “accidental” Wes Anderson moments, there’s nothing inadvertent about them, and TikTok now has countless how-to guides to match, talking users through must-use fonts, staple camera angles, and the all-important deadpan gazes into the lens that often feature in the director’s universe.
Now, the trend is spreading, and even other iconic moments in film are getting Wes-ified. With the help of AI, one enterprising sci-fi fan put together an entire trailer for a fictional, Anderson-directed Star Wars film, which manages to perfectly capture the director’s highly specific brand of comedy. Another gave Harry Potter similar treatment.
Users have even dug up an old American Express advert, by Anderson himself in 2004, which sees the director outlining how to tell stories in film, in a distracted and slightly nonsensical fashion. The minute he downloads TikTok and posts that #WesAndersonTrend hashtag, it’s over for the lot of us.
Only Anderson, after all, could make a barren crater in the middle of a desert community feel vaguely romantic even despite its dystopian undertones – a brief he looks set to nail with upcoming sci-fi flick Asteroid City. It’s led by an all-star cast including Anderson regulars Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, and Willem Dafoe.
Tom Hanks, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Carrell, Maya Hawke, Jeffrey Wright, Hope Davis. Liev Schreiber, Margot Robbie, Hong Chau, Edward Norton, Tony Revolori, Bryan Cranston, and Jeff Goldblum are also on the packed line-up.
Ignoring the austerity of freeze-dried space food and space shuttle loos (which forcibly vacuum users into position; the indignity of it all after years of intensive astronaut training!) in favour of something more glamorous, the sci-fi film unfolds in a strange desert town obsessed with outer space, and the existential answers contained within its terrifying, unknown mass.
This search comes amid a constant hum of extraterrestrial activity, and aesthetically, Asteroid City feels a little like an alien’s skewed perspective on a remote American town – it’s just that bit too shiny and plastic to feel like it’s from this planet. It feels as if it was pieced together by someone from another galaxy who has heard vaguely about life in the US through blurred postcards and uptempo TV commercials, and put together their own kitschy imitation.
It may be escapsim, but particularly right now, perhaps it’s little surprise that so many of us are choosing to live in Anderson’s slightly surreal worlds instead.