French Dispatch, The (2021)

Anderson’s weakest in a long while despite the indelible images and precise mise-en-scene which he is so good at—there’s hardly any character worth resonating with, and the stories are way too dry and lack sentiment.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Review #2,321

Dir. Wes Anderson
2021 | USA | Drama/Comedy | 107 mins | 1.37:1 | English & French
M18 (passed clean) for graphic nudity, some sexual references and language

Cast: Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Lea Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothee Chalamet, Lyna Khoudri
Plot: Following the death of its editor-in-chief, the staff of an American magazine based in France decides to publish a final memorial edition highlighting the three best stories which appeared over the publication’s 10-year run. 
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes); Nom. for Best Original Score (Golden Globes)
Distributor: Disney

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex/Anthology
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse

Viewed: In Theatres (The Cathay)
Spoilers: No

I’m sure this will come across as a strong film for audiences who might appreciate its literateness.  In a way, it is Wes Anderson singing the same tune, but now with more words and much less sentiment.  As much as I want to like it, I can’t pretend to say that I enjoyed it. 

The French Dispatch is the weakest picture from the American auteur that I’ve seen thus far (at this stage, I’ve pretty much seen everything except his 1996 debut feature, Bottle Rocket). 

He, of course, retains his ability to craft indelible images with precise mise-en-scene, an artistic sensibility yet to be matched by any other contemporaneous American filmmaker working in this vein of extreme theatricality. 

“All great beauties withhold their deepest secrets.”

But despite working with an all-star ensemble cast, some blessed with more screen time than others, The French Dispatch hardly has any character worth resonating with. They all feel uninteresting, and worse still, the various stories that they are in aren’t exactly brimming with life. 

Centering on a collection of stories published in the fictional ‘The French Dispatch Magazine’, the film is snapshotty thematically (what does it want to say really?) and an excuse for Anderson to indulge in his ‘love letter’ to old French towns and the art of prose-making. 

Largely uninspiring and feels like three hours instead of two, the best thing about The French Dispatch is a little animated chase sequence that comes in the final third of the film.  How I wished the entire film was made in that form—the aesthetical abstraction might just have made the literateness come alive naturally.

Grade: C+




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s