Written by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand
The relationship between journalists and their editors remains integral to telling the stories these individuals put hours and more of their life into telling. An incredibly important bond celebrated and lovingly explored in yet another technical wonderment from the mind of Wes Anderson. Through its anthology style, it carries its larger sentiment while telling equally entertaining stories in between.
Arthur Howitzer Jr (Bill Murray) has valiantly run The French Dispatch newspaper giving his writers the opportunity to explore various stories. Upon his sudden heart attack, his will states upon his death the newspaper will be dissolved following a farewell release, which includes the final stories as the writers travel to various places around the world in telling intriguing tales for the last issue.
This pretty much gets stated in every single review I have for Wes Anderson, but it feels incredibly apt as a prelude to talking about The French Dispatch. Wes has such a particular style through his comedy and storytelling style that will not vibe with everyone. Whether or not a viewer generally considers themselves a fan of his work will heavily influence their opinions on this film as a whole. This feature will certainly not convert anyone who dislikes his films but for those who consider themselves fans, this truly proves to be a delectable medley of filmmaking splendor in the different stories covered and yet another example of Anderson assembling a star-studded cast.
While these stories do not have narrative connectivity, meaning the emotional throughline does not exist binding them, the overall idea of having these journalists tell these stories serves as the grand theme followed in each of them. The way they get presented each proves to be equally hilarious in their own right and all get at the beauty of journalism. This work captures the eccentricities of life, the larger moments that need distillation, and just a wonderful exploration of the human spirit. For better or worse, each of these anthology segments captures it as presented by the journalists themselves in entertaining ways.
Everyone will have their favorite as each of them contain something to marvel at in their own ways. If one had to be chosen as the best, it would have to be “The Concrete Masterpiece,” which follows the complexities of art and its commercial value with tremendous performances by Benicio del Toro and Adrien Brody. This segment has plenty it wants to say regarding the entire art form but the interplay between each of the characters makes for such an entertaining and very Wes Anderson type of story. It gets presented by Tilda Swinton who never bores in finding comedic ways to speak and present information. Everything here runs at 100% to capture the oddity of what occurs but also the ability for individuals to be mythologized for their talents. This serves as one of the four stories in the last issue of the newspaper and each of them contain their value in a distinctively lovely way.
As can be expected with every Wes Anderson film, the production design is absolutely sensational with each set setting up the opportunity to establish something new and on each occasion, it became a treat just to marvel at the mastery on display. Adam Stockhausen has served as Wes Anderson’s production designer going back to Moonrise Kingdom and he has simply not missed even winning the Academy Award for his impeccable work in The Grand Budapest Hotel. He knocks it out of the park once again here almost to an overwhelming degree with so much to process on display. The film demands repeat viewings just to take in everything on a visual level with plenty of small jokes hidden within the fabric of sets. Undoubtedly the greatest asset of this feature and it truly dazzles.
The same can be said with Wes Anderson’s screenplay, who just has such a wonderful mind for his characters and the way they describe themselves. Along with the pacing and editing of the feature, it becomes so much to process at once, which befits the ideas of these journalists trying to tell their stories and fight for the importance of everything they want. So many pieces of dialogue asked for the chef’s kiss in displaying Anderson at his most economical and it shows with this film being only 103 minutes. It feels more robust than the runtime would indicate, but not in a bad way as it moves but so much occurs. It almost gets a bit tiring but again, not in a bad way.
Quite the experience and amid so many mindless blockbusters, it always feels good to receive the work of someone so singular and distinctive in their approach. The French Dispatch feels like such a Wes Anderson movie and that will dictate whether it will be enjoyed by those depending on their history with this filmmaker. As a self-proclaimed fan, this feature provides everything I seek through his films, and his style has continued to impress me with its incredibly detailed approach and this feature is no different.