There are many great filmmakers out in the industry today, but none may be as unique as Wes Anderson. The filmmaker has made an array of films, like Moonrise Kingdom and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and through his sense of style and wit has proven to be a standout director not to mention among my favorite filmmakers. It has been a few years since a Wes Anderson film has hit the silver screen, but the zany director is back with his new film: The French Dispatch.
The film is an anthology and centers on editor Andrew Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) gathering stories from his writers for the final edition of his magazine. The movie made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival last summer and since then the film has received general praise from critics. The movie finally made its way to theaters for the fall season and though it took longer than I would have hoped I finally got a chance to see it. After seeing it for myself, it is in this Film Adventurer’s opinion that The French Dispatch lives up to Anderson’s filmography by being zany, stylish and a one of kind film.
The film is certainly an anthology, and it was a quirky one at that. Whether it was the tale of the deranged artist Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro) or Roebuck Wright (Jeffery Wright) recounting on how a private dinner turns into a kidnapping caper, each story had their own style while keeping true to the movie’s overall concept. Along with the main subjects, each story would break into sub plots (with each being told in a different style), and though this could be off-putting it brought a unique aspect to both the main stories as well as the overall plot. While the movie’s storytelling was dynamic, its narrative could be abrupt, and it felt as though the main plot of Howitzer collecting was leading to something more; but it only went so far-especially when in comparison to the other subjects. Still, despite this, the plot was entertaining, engaging and lived up to the standards of a Wes Anderson film.
To call this cast an ensemble would be an understatement. The cast was plentiful with both stand out characters and fun performances. When it came to the writers, each of them had their own sense of wit which made them both viable storytellers and outlandish characters. Yet the true sense of characterization came from each subject whether it was Moses, the rebellious student Zeffirelli (Timothee Chalamet) or the Commissaire (Mathieu Amalric). Each of these characters were interesting leads to follow and they all brought something compelling to the cast-not to mention the movie. Along with the writers and their subjects, this cast was filled with surprising appearances. While the likes of Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton and Ed Norton are no strangers to Anderson’s films, the movie had its share of surprising additions like Elisabeth Moss, Christoph Waltz and Angelica Huston. When it came to Howitzer, the character served his purpose, but he did not have the impact as one may expect-though Murray did bring his usual charm to the role. Then again with a cast such as this one, Howitzer’s minimal presence did little to hurt the cast; in fact, it only added to the immense variety that defined this outrageous ensemble.
Wes Anderson’s films tend to have a unique sense of cinematography, and in the case of The French Dispatch this point could not be any more obvious. The cinematography was extraordinary as the movie used a variety of styles while implementing camerawork seen in Anderson’s animated films. Then again aspects such as having colored moment during black and white segments could be off-putting, but this direction was appreciated due to its subtle implications. In the case of music, the score by Alexandre Desplat was appropriate as its exuberant melodies felt appropriate to the movie’s tone. Last and certainly not least was the movie’s sense of humor which was clever with its timing and its remarkable wit felt right with Anderson’s typical repertoire.
The French Dispatch is a Wes Anderson through and through. Between its crazy storytelling and outrageous cast, this movie was a one of kind experience that continued to highlight why I enjoy this filmmaker’s work so much. Whether or not this movie is among Anderson’s best films remain to be seen, but there is little doubt in this Film Adventurer’s mind that The French Dispatch is a stylish feature that is easily among the best films of 2021.