Movie Review: ‘The French Dispatch’

Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Elisabeth Moss, Anjelica Huston, Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park

Plot: With it’s final issue, ‘The French Dispatch’ republishes three of its most popular stories: ‘The Concrete Masterpiece’, ‘Revisions to a Manifesto’ and ‘The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner’.

Review: It’s almost a mark of the auteur that they can get away with indulging themselves. You’d have to have reached a point of your career where you’ve become a consistent earner, and you’re given free reign to indulge in your unique style and we’re perfectly fine with that. I put Wes Anderson on the same page as Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright, who seem to be doing their own thing and they are consistently entertaining. I’d break down the style of The French Dispatch, but you already know what it looks like. This is one is Wes Anderson at his most Wes Andersony.

The French Dispatch doesn’t have a consistent story, even by the standards of anthology films. Some anthology films will pull together a basic conceit for linking together a couple of stories being told by the characters that book end the whole thing. We open with an obituary for Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Murray), editor of the titular American magazine published in the French town of Ennui. This doubles as an explanation for the magazine and characters, providing the context that magazine is to close. Following this is a short piece by Herbsaint Sazerac (Wilson), the cycling reporter, who provides a day-in-the-life of Ennui report. From here the film is split into the three main stories, each with its own cast and closed tale, with Bill Murray giving sage wisdom on the piece before publishing it.

First of the three is reported by J.K.L. Berensen (Swinton), who recounts the life and career of incarcerated and celebrated avant garde artist Moses Rosenthaler (del Toro and Revolori). Next is Lucinda Krementz (McDormand) who writes a profile of student revolutionary Zeffirelli (Chalamet), with whom she is having an affair. Lastly, we have Roebuck Wright (Wright) who recounts the action packed tale of a gourmet meal with a police commissioner interrupted by a kidnapping. Each one is its own unique story and cast of weirdos, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Short film anthologies work well for Anderson, as his style works best when its punchy. The collection of stories provides a solid showcase for Anderson’s unique style and art direction.

What makes the film feel a bit abrupt is the lack of a strong linking narrative. We spend very little time in the offices of ‘The French Dispatch’, and that’s where we get some of the more interesting characters gathered together. Each short film on its own is an excellent example of Anderson’s work, but we’d like more time with the characters outside of the stories being recounted.

If you’ve been cold on Anderson up until this point, this is not the movie for you. If you are like me, and are more than happy to see this director lean into their personal style, then get out to see it.

Rating: EIGHT out of TEN