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MOVIES: The French Dispatch - Review

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Wes Anderson is, full confession, a filmmaker that I’m 50/50 on. I think a lot of that is to do in which the order that I watched his work – the films of his that I saw first, Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox, are the movies that linger in my mind the longest – whereas anything else I’m not particularly keen on. The French Dispatch unfortunately is the director’s weakest yet, a stylish but entirely empty and hollow piece that doesn’t give you a reason to care about any of the three stories in its anthology, structured around multiple events, such as an imprisoned painter whose art becomes a smash hit, student riots in May ’68, and the kidnapping of a young boy whose chef is able to save the day. These are – on their own, enough stories for three features but in an already short film at one hundred and nine minutes they barely have any time to breath.

Everything feels rushed here, artistically brilliant with some better animated sequences, but it would have been better off as a comic book – a graphic novel, as opposed to a movie – the set design is some of Wes Anderson’s best and most unique and everything is an extravagant onslaught of his usual levels of quirkiness, including but not limited to a chess game that decides the fate of a revolution, and the head of a newspaper who has a sign above the doorway to his office instructing those within not to cry. Everywhere you look there’s an A-List star here, Bill Murray, Benicio Del Toro, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton – it’s pretty much a combination of every actor who hasn’t worked in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet. Timothée Chalamet and Saoirse Ronan star in yet another feature together; but Ronan is barely in it and both are in separate stories. It’s an absolute waste of all this talent – A-List actors are often on frames for a few seconds, if at all – and Wes Anderson makes them somehow appear as bland and as boring lead characters as you can imagine. It’s by far his least emotionally affecting film – entirely cold and distant – echoing Jacques Tati with the strong start, but falls apart very quickly.

This is a film that feels entirely aimed at the press crowd who will watch the movie – it’s a film about journalism, of course – and it’s no wonder that the crowd laughed plenty of times during it. I’ve seen multiple people describe it as the “most” Wes Anderson film and I would unfortunately have to agree – which isn’t entirely a good thing, as all his flaws as a filmmaker are evident here. If you’re more of a fan of his though you may find yourself on its wavelength, but The French Dispatch is very much not for me – and that may be down entirely to my personal taste - as it's a well-made effort with visuals that wow.

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