Time: 103 Minutes
Age Rating: Offensive language, nudity, drug use & sexual references
Bill Murray as Arthur Howitzer Jr.
Owen Wilson as Herbsaint Sazerac
Tilda Swinton as J.K.L. Berensen
Benicio del Toro as Moses Rosenthaler
Adrien Brody as Julien Cadazio
Léa Seydoux as Simone
Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz
Timothée Chalamet as Zeffirelli
Lyna Khoudri as Juliette
Jeffrey Wright as Roebuck Wright
Mathieu Amalric as The Commissaire
Stephen Park as Lt. Nescaffier
Director: Wes Anderson
A love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch.”
At the New Zealand International Film Festival, I managed to secure tickets for three movies I wanted to see. The first was Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch which I’ve been looking forward to. I had been interested in it from the cast, the trailer and of course Anderson directing, who has made a lot of movies I really liked. But I was especially looking forward to it after going through his whole filmography from beginning to end, and by the end I liked him even more as a director. So I was excited for The French Dispatch, and I thoroughly enjoyed it from beginning to end.
The French Dispatch’s plot is about a magazine with the same name, with the movie beginning with the death of the editor (played by Bill Murray). The story we follow is about the magazine, and the articles in it. As such, the film is essentially an anthology movie, made up of some short stories. With it being an anthology movie, it comes with the typical trappings. The tone changes with every section, and some sections are better than others. However, I liked them all. In a way it is his most messy and disjointed film, but it compliments his style. I do think that it’s a strong contender for his least accessible movie, I wouldn’t recommend this being your first Wes Anderson movie. As someone who has seen all his other movies, I really enjoyed it. It was very entertaining and delightful with some great humour. Each of his story very clearly has Anderson’s wit that we’ve come to expect from him, especially with the memorable dialogue. However it’s not only a very fun movie to watch, you really feel the passion behind it. Essentially, The French Dispatch is a love letter to journalists. I’ve seen some people say that this movie feels emotionally distant even by Wes Anderson’s standards, but I thoroughly disagree. There are some genuinely tender and heartfelt moments across the three stories. The anthology approach to the overall story made it feel like you are reading a book or magazine at times, which was for its benefit. All the stories are at the very least enjoyable to watch. There is an introduction segment following Owen Wilson, which is light hearted and fun to watch, definitely a good way to start the stories. The first of the main three stories follows Benicio Del Toro as an artist in a prison, and this is probably my favourite of three stories. The second of the stories is about a student protest, and stars Timothee Chalamet. I do like this story but its distinctly my least favourite of the three. I really didn’t know where it was going, and I don’t mean in a good way. The pacing is inconsistent across the film but this was the only case where it really started to weigh on the movie. The third of the stories follows Jeffrey Wright and its about a kidnapping. It was nearly my favourite of the three and it was a great story to end on.
The French Dispatch has an absurdly large cast, by far the largest cast that Wes Anderson has worked with. In terms of the main actors in the stories, the first story stars Benicio Del Toro, Lea Seydoux, Adrien Brody and Tilda Swinton, the second segment has Timothee Chalamet and Frances McDormand, and the third segment has Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, and Stephen Chow. There’s also the head of the newspaper played by Bill Murray. The cast are all welcome to see and are fantastic in their parts, even though most of them are only here for brief appearances.
Wes Anderson is the director and you can clearly feel that throughout. In fact this film is so Wes Anderson you could almost call it a self parody. It’s his most unique movie and that’s really saying a lot, with some shots in this that aren’t anything like he’s done before. It is aesthetically pleasing with fantastic visuals. We’ve come to expect this from Wes but every time he somehow surprises. It flips certain shots from black and white to colour, it even shifts aspect ratio, and even changes between live action to animation. The Alexandre Desplat perfectly fits the movie and the overall tone.
This is the most Wes Anderson movie possible, and I’m not sure if everyone will like it. I think it’s definitely a contender for being one of the more divisive Anderson movies. However I really liked it. I loved the anthology approach with three distinct stories, with each having something to love about them. I loved the performances from the stacked cast (with Jeffrey Wright and Benicio Del Toro being among the highlights), and I loved the direction from Anderson. Definitely among my favourite films from 2021 thus far.