“The French Dispatch”

MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “The French Dispatch” stars Bill Murray (Ghostbusters [1984], St. Vincent), Benicio Del Toro (Sicario, The Usual Suspects), Adrien Brody (Midnight in Paris, The Pianist), Tilda Swinton (Snowpiercer [2013], Constantine [2005]), Léa Seydoux (No Time to Die, The Lobster), Frances McDormand (Fargo [1996], Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri), Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name, Lady Bird), Lyna Khoudri (Papicha, The Blessed), Jeffrey Wright (Westworld [TV series], The Hunger Games: Mockingjay), Owen Wilson (Bottle Rocket, Zoolander), Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Munich), Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gosford Park), Henry Winkler (The Waterboy, Barry [TV series]), Lois Smith (Minority Report [2002], The Nice Guys), Tony Revolori (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Dope), and Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds, Assassin’s Creed). It is directed by Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Rushmore), who wrote it with Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom), Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Jason Schwartzman (Isle of Dogs, Mozart in the Jungle [TV series]).

A love letter to journalism, this film features a selection of news articles published in the fictional “French Dispatch Magazine.”

Like all recent Wes Anderson films, I’ve been waiting for “The French Dispatch” since the moment it was announced. So… two years ago? Maybe longer?

Wes is one of the few filmmakers working right now that I absolutely have to see his works in the theater. No question. He’s my favorite director, and has inspired me in many of my first short films I put together when I was in high school. For those of you who don’t know him… look his movies up. His style is distinct, dialogue is witty, and stories are original. It’s only a shame (and understandable) how it takes him forever to release another picture.

“The French Dispatch” is one of Anderson’s most different films yet. It’s a piece made of multiple parts, both in story and characters. The scope of it is massive, and to attempt to review it after only one viewing is… a challenge. Quite honestly, I debated whether to analyze this one until I saw it a second time, but given how it takes me an eternity to go to the theater, I decided to bite the bullet. Because first reactions are always what’s preferred to be read, right? I hope so…

Awe, wonderment, perplexity, and utter confusion. These are the adjectives that best describes my first experience of “The French Dispatch.” It’s a sprawling film, structured as if it were an actual newspaper (fit with travel, art, political, food, and obituary), with the most detail I have ever witnessed from an Anderson piece. Believe me guys, even in his shots there is endless material to look at. His production design is state of the art; the travel section alone is teeming with so much in the frame from foreground to background. I was a giddy child in a toy store just looking at this movie.

With that of course comes the utter defeat of trying to fully soak in the film. It’s an onslaught of deep visuals and quick dialogue; enough to make your head spin. Think of the mass that is “Royal Tenenbaums” and times it by 100. Quite a few times, the person I was seeing this with would lean over and say “what is happening?” Half joking, of course, but I agreed; there is so much to chew on in this (and subtitles would’ve been appreciated). Anderson perfected his style long ago, and only makes it more intricate the further he goes. My only concern is… at what point does its substance become hollow and the style become overblown?

What I love most about Anderson’s earlier works is the sincerity in the simplicity. His style has always been witty, but the heart has always bled forth. Time was given, and production design was there to give it life rather than become a forefront distraction. “French Dispatch” teeters the line. Style is becoming all the more principle, and while I’m in love with almost every frame, I wish the stories felt more personal. Each one in this is fascinating, though as we trek forward, they become all the more confusing/outlandish. My favorite portion of the entire film is the travel introduction with Owen Wilson. His commentary and visual supplement were exceptional, and my heart swelled at the spectacle of it all (“Wes is back, baby”). But as we continue, I became more and more perplexed, and eventually had to give up trying to understand it all.

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this film. And I believe it to be one that grows on me over time (with more viewings, of course). But there’s so much to it that I don’t feel as attached. The characters are interesting, with all-star talent backing them up; but because there’s so many stars, there’s some that I get upset over who didn’t get a lot of screen time (namely Willem Dafoe and Jason Schwartzman). Wes can do whatever he wants, but tossing actors I love into bit roles saddens me more than makes me happy. And in regards to his dialogue… I think it’s becoming a bit too incoherent. Or at least… too fast? I’m not sure. All I know is, it’s become like a textbook, which makes me wonder if it’s trying to be a caricature of itself or if Anderson just wants his characters to sound intelligent to the point of no return. Either way, that was another factor that distanced me.

Guys. I can easily fanboy about this. I can sway my thoughts because I love whatever Anderson touches. But I have to admit that “The French Dispatch” is a bit too big for its britches. There’s so much crammed into this thing that the rewatchability value is through the roof. But because of that, it also doesn’t connect with me as much. I’d rather have a singular (or set few) character who I grow close to, watch their journey unfold and see them blossom out of it (Max Fischer in “Rushmore” comes to mind). The bigger you get, the less personal it feels. And Anderson went all out. I give him props, and I look forward to seeing this again. I just wish that I grappled to it more the first time. FINAL SCORE: 87%= Juicy Popcorn

Here is the trailer:

One response to ““The French Dispatch”

  1. Pingback: November Movie Rankings | Juicy Reviews·

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