The French Dispatch – Film Review

Director: Wes Anderson

Writer: Wes Anderson

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Stephen Park, Owen Wilson and Bill Murray

Rating: ★★★ 

With over a year of delays Wes Anderson’s new film, The French Dispatch, is finally here. It’s his love-letter to journalism, French arts and culture, and specifically The New Yorker. A star-studded cast full of Wes Anderson regulars and some newcomers join together in his most ambitious project yet.

The film is centred around The French Dispatch, an American magazine that is based in France. The founder, Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) has died and as per his will, the magazine will run one final issue and cease production. The film is made up of three shorts, which are three stories in the magazine. There is also an introduction and epilogue that cap the stories with the over-arching narrative.

The stories are nice, filled with many funny and strange moments. It’s essentially watching three short films from the mind of Wes Anderson, completely unfiltered. They are wacky, bizarre and filled with Anderson’s humour. They do feel a little flat and halfway through the third one it has outstayed its welcome. Apparently, it’s possible for there to be too much Wes Anderson. The cast are all great, but there just isn’t enough there for the characters to be really engaging. There’s a tortured artist, who’s serving time in prison for murder, a young revolutionary chess genius and a food critic who ends up on a strange kidnapping adventure. There are so many stories and ideas thrown together to create the film, but none of them feel fully developed.

As expected from a Wes Anderson film, the visuals are simply gorgeous. The use of colour, and black and white footage is perfection. It looks and feels like a storybook. There is one scene that is part of a stage-play one of the characters wrote, and yet others look just as unreal and magical. The freeze frames, with objects suspended in the air, but people slightly wobbling is a joy every time it happens.

The music is simply stunning and the best bit of the film, featuring a great cover of ‘Aline’ by Jarvis Cocker as well as the song ‘Tu m’as trop menti’, which featured in Jean Luc Goddard’s Masculin Feminin, a clear influence on the middle short in The French Dispatch. The score is charming and playful throughout, capturing the fun tone of Anderson’s film. The dialogue is also full of a punchy energy, which was in honour of some of the writers for The New Yorker that inspired the film.

There are so many stars in this film. It feels like all of Anderson’s regulars appear at one point or another. Alongside the main cast of the three stories, are workers for the magazine as well as cameo spots that are so quick you’ll miss them if you blink. It’s a ‘who’s who’ of Wes Anderson’s filmography. By the time the credits roll you’ve forgotten half the people who were in it, only to be reminded as their names go up. It has to be Anderson’s biggest cast yet.

The French Dispatch is simply too much Anderson. It’s quirky and whimsical to such a degree that at points it’s a little hard to stay engaged with it.  His very personal love letter to The New Yorker ends up being a little too self-indulgent. It still has enough laughs and great moments to make it enjoyable, but it’s missing the warm feeling that Moonrise Kingdom and The Great Budapest Hotel have, which stops it from being an excellent Wes Anderson film.

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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