A team of talented journalists seek out human interest stories
that are published in a niche magazine called The French Dispatch.
The French Dispatch (2021)
Written and Directed by Wes Anderson
Starring Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody,
Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric,
Steve Park, Owen Wilson, Edward Norton, Elisabeth Moss,
Bob Balaban, Henry Winkler, Liev Schreiber, Willem Dafoe
Fate has been against me with this movie, as I have been trying to go see it for what feels like a month. Finally, I was able to carve out a few hours to check the last Wes Anderson movie off my watchlist, and what a fitting conclusion (thus far) to my quest. The French Dispatch is the most Wes Anderson-y movie yet, and an optimistic delight through and through. It's a love letter to twentieth century journalism and human interest stories, with the editor's office of The French Dispatch used as a framing device for the latest issue that contains the film's stories. Loaded with Anderson's most ambitious and exciting cast yet, this film is yet another feather in his cap.
We begin with "The Cycling Reporter," which sees Herbsaint Sazerac (Wilson) describing the fictional town of Ennui and how it has changed over time. While not all that compelling, it's a reasonable way to begin the film. That's followed by my personal favorite, "The Concrete Masterpiece," which stars Benicio Del Toro as a convicted murderer who happens to be a talented, sought-after painter. An arrogant art dealer (Brody) wants his work, and is super pissed when he finds out his new masterpiece is a series of frescoes painted on the prison walls. Then we get "Revisions to a Manifesto," a send-up of teenage angst starring Frances McDormand and Timothee Chalamet. Watching them together was like a mind-meld of an experienced actor and a leader of the next generation of stars. We end with "The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner," which, despite a strong performance from Jeffrey Wright, was the weakest of the bunch. It follows Wright as he dines with the police commissioner, just as his son is kidnapped. It features a dazzling animated sequence, but ends on a dull note.
The most impressive thing about The French Dispatch is Anderson's constant switching between color and black & white. The shifts are subtle, so much so that sometimes you don't even notice, but it adds something new that I don't think I've ever seen before. While not his masterpiece, The French Dispatch is another mostly enjoyable gem that will no doubt get better with repeated viewings.