Review by Camden Ferrell
The French Dispatch is the new movie from the iconic director Wes Anderson, whose most recent films include Isle of Dogs and The Grand Budapest Hotel. His newest film had its premiere at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. In this movie, Anderson once again strikes gold visually, delivering a beautifully shot and designed film even if it lacks some of the substance of his best works.
In this film, we learn of the inner workings of the titular magazine, located in a fictitious 20th century French city. Anderson presents to us an anthology of stories that are featured in the magazine. This includes an artistically inclined convicted murderer, a group of student revolutionaries, and a food journalist. This anthology structure is new for Anderson, but it also gives him more narrative freedom within each individual story.
Like most of his previous films, Anderson’s script is full of colorful, engaging, and unrealistically speedy dialogue. It’s a script that only could work in an Anderson film, and it fits snugly amongst his other screenplays. However, it does feel like this movie does lack some of the constant wit and humor that made his writing so unique. Thankfully, there’s enough personality in his script to give this movie a unique voice that is fully invested in the lives of its characters.
The acting throughout this film is mostly superb. Since the movie is divided into separate stories, many actors have ample time to shine in the spotlight. While this cast is giant, some of the biggest standouts were Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, and Lyna Khoudri. The entire cast has great chemistry together, and most of the individual actors have unique and entertaining takes on the quirky cast of characters.
One of the most impressive aspects of this movie is how visually distinct and refined it is even by Anderson’s standards. Each of his film’s have been raising the bar in terms of its set design, world building, and overall aesthetic. This film is no different, and it feels entirely different from anything he has done while also having his signature touch in every shot.
Anderson has also refined his ability to execute scenes. This movie has a handful of hilarious moments of physical comedy and timing that he has perfected over his last three movies. This, accompanied with yet another memorable score from Alexandre Desplat, make this a one-of-a-kind experience that fans of Anderson’s work are sure to love. It’s also worth mentioning that this might be the finest film of cinematographer Robert Yeoman’s career.
While the movie is overflowing with merit in all departments, my main complaint is from the occasional lack of substance that the stories have. Even though they are entertaining, it sometimes feels thematically hollow which doesn’t allow the film to always have a strong emotional core. Also, the final chapter of the film does have an inconsistent pace that can throw off the otherwise perfect momentum of the film.
The French Dispatch may not be Anderson’s best film, but it’s exactly the kind of fun, energetic, colorful, and quirky movie one can expect from him. It is undeniably one of the most visually gorgeous movies this year, and it features a wide array of talent on and off screen. Needless to say, this is a film that Anderson’s fans will adore, and it may even win some new converts.
The French Dispatch is in theaters October 22.