“The French Dispatch” stars Benicio del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri, Jeffrey Wright, Bill Murray, and Owen Wilson. Released on October 22, 2021, the film centers on a collection of stories from an American newspaper.
The film was written and directed by Wes Anderson, who also directed films such as "The Royal Tenenbaums", "The Darjeeling Limited", "Moonrise Kingdom", and "Isle of Dogs". Newspapers are a great way to get caught up with the latest news and stories written by determined journalists. Nowadays, we rely on our screens to get information on the events happening throughout the world. But back then, newspapers were where it's at when it comes to…well, the news. This film harkens back to those days. This latest film from acclaimed director Wes Anderson has been on my mind for quite some time since it was announced. It's got an enormous list of recognizable actors, an artistic filmmaker, and an approach of putting three mini-stories in one package. These reasons alone were good enough for me to check it out, especially since Anderson impressed me with his previous works. Seriously, that guy's a genius when it comes to his creative style and production design. With that said, let's see if this final issue is worth reading.
The film follows the workers of a fictional Kansas newspaper known as The French Dispatch. When its editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Murray), suddenly dies of a heart attack, the employees set out to publish one final issue before closure as the last request from Howitzer. Three different articles are republished from past editions: The Concrete Masterpiece, Revisions to a Manifesto, and The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner. If you can't already tell from the plot, it's an anthology film representing several mini-stories centered on many different bizarre characters. Reviewing each of the three "articles" would probably take me all day, so I'm just going to talk about the overall film as best as possible. This is a quirky and straightforward collection that celebrates the world of newspaper journalism through the artistic eyes of Wes Anderson. While it didn't hit the same targets as his previous films, like "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox", I still admired the distinctive craftsmanship that Anderson brought on screen. His direction provided a unique balance of oddball comedy and drama packed with energy, visuals, Alexandre Desplat's fantastic score, and the enthusiastic cast. The actors onscreen did a tremendous job with their performances, which is expected since most of them worked with Anderson before. Benicio del Toro, Timothée Chalamet, and Jeffrey Wright were the best of the bunch as Moses Rosenthaler, Zeffirelli, and Roebuck Wright, respectively, especially Wright. I'm telling you, Jeffrey Wright has a remarkable talent for providing compelling narration. Please get him more gigs like this in the future. The cinematography by Robert D. Yeoman perfectly captures the essence of a 1940s-like movie in France. The majority of the mini-stories were shown in black-and-white, with a few occasional colored shots to showcase some necessary sequences. There were also a couple of moments where they switched from full screen to widescreen and vice versa. Thankfully, they're used as a tool to represent the film's artistry in the designs. Speaking of which, I'm willing to bet that the film should get some recognition for the production values. Not only did it accurately showcase France in the 1940s, but it also offered an impressive mixture of practical props and visual effects. The way they moved specific backgrounds onscreen was highly similar to how it's performed on a stage. It gave me a feeling of watching a play on Broadway with actual people playing their parts in front of backgrounds resembling a building's interiors. If there's one thing I learned from Anderson, it's that he knows how to combine filmmaking with the art of theatre. As for the film's story, I surprisingly found it to be divisive. The film is just the newspaper team making one final publication and nothing else. The articles themselves were fascinating to witness despite some pacing issues. However, I did feel that people who went into this film blind may be confused about the goal Anderson's attempting to accomplish. In my eyes, I thought Anderson did a pretty decent job resembling his film as a love letter to journalism, even though the story couldn't match his superb artistic style.
Overall, "The French Dispatch" is another visual treat that's worth a read for Wes Anderson enthusiasts. While its flaws were reasonably easy to spot on paper, such as its plot and pacing, the film shines in its artistic serenity and quirky enthusiasm. "Fantastic Mr. Fox", "The Grand Budapest Hotel", and "Isle of Dogs" are still my favorite films from Anderson. However, I will still call this a worthy piece of cinematic art from the imaginative director. If it's playing at a theater near you and you loved some of Anderson's other works, it's worth checking out.