Rob Reviews "The French Dispatch"
I don’t know if I have ever really gone into this, but I have a strange relationship with the films of Wes Anderson. Overall, I find them to be pretty pretentious (REALLY not a fan of “The Royal Tenenbaums,” and Craig Price, I’m looking at YOU) outside of his family films like “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and “Isle of Dogs”. If you really want to understand how I feel here, look up the “SNL” sketch where they did a “what if” with Anderson directing a horror film. Even through all of that, I was at least mildly intrigued by his latest opus in “The French Dispatch,” and I am glad I went.
The title refers to a fictional newspaper insert magazine in Kansas founded in 1925 by the family of Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray). Fifty years later, it is preparing to print its final issue and taps its most influential and prolific writers to send it off into the sunset. As the film unfolds, the magazine comes to life through the eyes of the writers of those articles that cover the gambit of art, lifestyle, revolution, and even kidnapping.
As Anderson tends to do, there is a HUGE cast here; Benecio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson, and even Henry Winkler checks in. (There is also an appearance by the grown-up Tony Revolori, who was in one of Andersons films that I enjoyed to an extent in “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.) The challenge that has to be faced with a cast like this is how to give everyone the time they deserve without the audience feeling like any time service was being given here, and Anderson lands that bird brilliantly. Each “article” carries its own tone and voice in a way that I expect when reading a publication like this (“Parade” comes to mind from when I was a kid) to the point where it didn’t feel like just three screenwriters in Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Hugo Guinness. There was even an e-mail campaign launched by the studio in the weeks leading up to the film’s release dealing with the different types of stories, but I did not dig too deeply into them in order to not spoil anything. After seeing “The French Dispatch,” I actually now want to go back and read them to see how it all works together.
Visually, this is DISTINCTLY Anderson, but I also didn’t expect anything less from him. His style works nicely within the script in a way that doesn’t feel forced or him doing that for the sake of it being his. He knows how to let his cast do what they do (there was apparently a LOT of improvising even with a script that was allegedly pretty tight), and I could really tell how much fun they were having as they were creating the story around them.
This is also the most un-ensemble ensemble movie I may have seen in my time. There is very little overlap with the cast outside of the reporters while they are in the office, so to refer to “The French Dispatch” as an ensemble film is to do it a bit of a disservice. It is more of a collection of shorts tied together to make a larger entertaining film than anything else, and in this case that is a really good thing. I could see a nomination here and there, but not on the level of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”. I very much enjoyed this film and actually kind of look forward to see where Anderson goes next.