The mind of Wes Anderson has always been a beautiful one. The perfectly organised, pastel worlds he creates are full of details and little touches that make it hard to dislike. His newest film The French Dispatch is no different.
Set in 20th century France, the film starts at the office of the fictional European paper The French Dispatch. The film is a love letter to journalists, and despite the not-so-realistic portrayal of what they actually do, you can see the admiration. The script was apparently influenced by the history of The New Yorker which adds a layer to the plot that is nice.
Unlike his other films, this one is a three-part anthology. Each story focuses on one of the paper’s best articles and how it came about. Tilda Swinton tells a crowd about the story she found of an incredible prison artist, Frances McDormand reports from the front lines of a student revolution and Jeffery Wright tells a talk show host about a chef so good his food saved a boy.
Story #1 – The Concrete Masterpiece – is the stand out of the three. Benicio Del Torro, Lea Seydoux and Adrian Brody are all fantastic and their contrasting personalities complement each other well.
Bill Murray stars as the editor in chief Arthur Howitzer Jr. Clearly one of Anderson’s favourite actors, Murray has now starred in 9 of his 10 films. The director is known for his re-using of actors. Others like Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman and Angelica Huston have all starred in five or more – and all are in The French Dispatch.
This time around there are some new faces in Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri and Jeffery Wright. Wright is only one of a few Black actors that have starred in Anderson’s films. The director had previously been called out for a lack of diversity by Whoopie Goldberg.
There is something about The French Dispatch, however, that doesn’t feel the same as his previous work. Whether it’s the melancholic yet vibrant Grand Budapest Hotel, or the tender and comforting Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson’s films have succeeded because he has been able to balance the hyper-stylised look with writing that makes you feel things. In The French Dispatch, the scales are off and it suffers a little because of it.
The different stories make it hard to get invested in any of the characters. There just isn’t enough time to learn about each person and it’s difficult to make any real connections to their narrative. There are also a couple of jarring POV and shaking camera shots that don’t work very well.
Despite all that, The French Dispatch is still a pleasure to watch. It’s hard not to enjoy something so meticulously crafted and it is always clear how much Anderson loves what he does. It seems unlikely that this will be anyone’s favourite Wes Anderson film, but not everything has to be the best.
Featured image credit: Disney