Wes Anderson has a unique directorial style. While his movies all feel very different, Anderson’s style shines through in everyone. It’s easy to assume most moviegoing patrons have seen at least one Wes Anderson film at some point in their lives. However, Anderson’s latest release, The French Dispatch, feels more like his earlier work, and less like the more evolved and matured work of his last few films. That’s not necessarily a bad thing though, depending on how you view Anderson’s films.
As with nearly all Wes Anderson movies, The French Dispatch features a wide range of talented actors. Within the various stories of The French Dispatch, you’ll find Benicio Del Toro, Tilda Swinton, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, and Léa Seydoux, just to name a few. All of them brought their A-game and elevated the dialogue-heavy scenes of the film to make them more digestible for the audience.
The French Dispatch follows the story of a magazine by the same name, run by Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray). Howitzer has collected some of the best journalists around, with several of them offering individual stories featured in the upcoming circulation that is visualized, like chapters, throughout the film. The stories don’t intertwine aside from the fact that Howitzer comments on them after the fact.
In the first story, Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson) travels around the city to provide a look at the past, and how the city has evolved. This is followed by J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton) discussing the impact of artwork from Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro). This story also features Rosenthaler’s stoic muse, Simone (Léa Seydoux), and an over-the-top art dealer, Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody).
A quick shift in the film and the audience is now following Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand) as she chronicles a joyfully ridiculous tale of the young revolutionists, Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) and Juliette (Lyna Khoudri). Finally, we are treated to Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) as he details his food critic escapades to a talk show host (Liev Schreiber), in a story that features the criminals, The Chauffeur (Edward Norton) and Albert ‘the Abacus’ (Willem Dafoe).
As you can see, this is a star-studded affair that’s all brought together by Anderson’s directing style, and the wit and humor of his script. What separates The French Dispatch from Anderson’s recent films, is that the humor is a bit more slapstick in some areas, and not quite as witty or insightful when compared to Isle of Dogs, The Grand Budapest Hotel, or even Fantastic Mr. Fox. The humor is more in line with Rushmore or The Royal Tenenbaums, which isn’t a bad thing but lacks the evolution we’ve seen from Anderson’s writing in his more recent films.
It takes some time to warm up to this version of Anderson’s style, but by the time the film reaches Wright’s segment (arguably the best of the bunch), it’s smooth sailing. While each of the chapters has a few standout moments, it’s the commentary from Howitzer that brings some of the best moments. Murray’s deadpan delivery truly sells the caring, yet critical nature of Howitzer’s relationship with his writing staff.
The French Dispatch isn’t Wes Anderson’s best film, but once you warm up to it, the movie is quite entertaining. If you’re not already a Wes Anderson fan, The French Dispatch is unlikely to change your mind, but if you’ve enjoyed at least some of his previous works, his latest should not disappoint. Each chapter stands on its own, never feeling too long or overly short. Separating each story with Howitzer’s commentary helps bring everything together and keep the audience engaged. As each chapter seems to build on the craziness of the last, the longer you get into The French Dispatch, the better the film becomes.
About The French Dispatch
Synopsis: A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional twentieth-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch Magazine”.
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness, Jason Schwartzman
Stars: Benicio Del Toro, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Jeffrey Wright, Lyna Khoudri
Runtime: 1 Hour, 48 Minutes
Releases: October 22nd, 2021 (USA)
Bryan Dawson has been writing professionally since the age of 13. He started his career as a video game writer and has since worked for Random House, Prima Games, DirecTV, IGN, AOL, the British Government, and various other organizations. For GNN, Bryan taps into his passion for movies.