Extra, Extra! – The French Dispatch Review

The final issue of the French Dispatch is going to print. What madcap stories are going to make the cut?

Title: The French Dispatch
Director: Wes Anderson
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance.
Main Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright and many more.
Runtime: 108 mins.
IMDb rating: 7.5/10.
My rating: 8.5/10.
Quick summary: Welcome to the French Dispatch – the magazine supplement of an American newspaper based in the fictional French city of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The journalists who write for the Dispatch find compelling tales each day in their enigmatic little city. Each story is more eventful than the last and each is filled with eccentric characters from all walks of life.

Where’s Wally (Celebrity version) ?

WARNING: Wes Anderson’s latest movie will make you want to become a travelling journalist and start smoking. Luckily, I am finishing my Master’s in Journalism this year and will hopefully be at least a journalist next year. Unfortunately, I have just given up smoking again and was very close to buying some more this evening after watching the film.

The French Dispatch, on the surface, is your typical Wes Anderson movie of the last 20 years. It is a film based loosely around a main plotline that is driven by the supporting cast of famous faces in their various storylines set against a picturesque and oft colourful (less) background.

Bill Murray plays Arthur Howitzer jr., founder and editor of the French Dispatch. He heads a team of brilliant, eccentric journalists. His death at the beginning of the movie signals the end of the magazine due to conditions in his will. Over the next 100 minutes the audience is shown the stories that make up the final edition of the Dispatch. We ride along a miserable Ennui, the city in which the film is set in, with Owen Wilson as he paints the place a shade of depressing grey; Witness Tilda Swinton’s recollection of a psychotic artist’s creative rebirth; Follow Frances McDormand’s covering of student revolutions led by Timothée Chalamet; and finally see Jeffrey Wright’s eventful dinner with the Ennui chief of police!

Each story has its own merits and is full of the quick and thoughtful dialogue that one can expect from an Anderson directorial. Many famous faces show up throughout the film, some for just one scene. It is testament to the director’s talent and pull amongst his friends that they would agree to appear for a few seconds of one of the year’s most anticipated films. Some would call it refreshing.

The three main storylines are both funny and emotional. Benicio Del Toro’s turn as tortured artist Moses and Léa Seydoux’s portrayal of his prison guard muse is heartfelt and tragic. Chalamet is brilliant as the student revolutionary in the second story. So too is Lyna Khoudri as his main supporter and detractor, Juliette, his fiery second hand at the front of the revolution. Jeffrey Wright has his moments of brilliance in the third story, showing his range of abilities after appearing in James Bond a few months previous.

Ultimately, this is a glowing appreciation of journalists and those who work in the press. We watch Murray exasperatedly and unsuccessfully attempt to get his egotistical journalists to stick to their original subject matter. They usually end up being right in their own decision but that does not take away from his credibility as a leader in the local media.

I have seen some comments on Twitter saying that you don’t have to like Wes Anderson’s previous movies to enjoy this one. While that is not necessarily true, being familiar with his work would be ideal. Anderson’s movies are feats of film production that feel like they have been made years before their time, even the scenes that burst into cartoon life (the scene where Wright, along with the chief of police chase after Edward Norton’s chauffeur who has kidnapped his son is a fantastic switch between ‘real’ life and animation).

If you have seen bits of Fantastic Mr. Fox or Grand Budapest Hotel and switched off with no interest then you won’t enjoy this. If you think that watching a movie about a remote newspaper supplement full of stories written by a bunch of interfering, unreliable narrators is up your alley then buy a ticket at your local cinema and enjoy!

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