Initially, Wes Anderson planned for his 10th feature film “The French Dispatch” to premiere in July of 2020. Almost a year and a half later, it’s finally here and is far from a disappointment.
The film is unlike anything Anderson has ever done. Instead of focusing on relationships between his characters like in “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “Moonrise Kingdom,” he focuses almost the entirety of “The French Dispatch” on stories.
The movie concentrates on a magazine modeled off “The New Yorker” in the city of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The magazine’s editor Arthur Howitzer Jr., played by Bill Murray, has a loyal entourage of journalists who spend a significant amount of time perfecting their stories in order to live up to Howitzer’s high journalistic standards.
“The French Dispatch,” however, is not your average journalism movie. Rather than featuring writers working in the newsroom to investigate controversial issues like we see in “All the President’s Men” or “Spotlight,” this film features a collection of stories as told by the journalist who wrote them.
As an audience member, you feel as though you are reading the whole magazine just from watching the film. You get to see detailed stories about art, politics and food, yet none of them are what you would expect from a normal news publication.
Anderson retains his iconic style in “The French Dispatch” and the technical work in it might be his best to date. From his unique parallel shots of the city of Ennui to the unpredictable switches from color to black-and-white, the film has its director written all over it.
Fans of the filmmaker will not be surprised to see live stills of actors frozen in the middle of a fight and vibrant colors that match the mood of each story.
Anderson is known for his stop-motion animation featured in “Isle of Dogs" and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” yet we rarely see him delve into other, more standard types of animation. But, an emotional and action-packed car chase in the movie is shown almost completely in impressive, comic strip-style animation.
This stray from his usual mode of animation, however, does not weaken his style whatsoever. In fact, his dives into new territory featured in the film showcase his ability to change his style and remain relevant after 25 years of filmmaking.
In all his previous movies, Anderson has shown a deep passion for portraying characters emotionally — even if they seem somewhat deadpan — and exploring their relationships throughout the film. You become extremely attached to characters, no matter how good or bad of a person they are. The one thing that ties all his films together, though, is the story.
In “Isle of Dogs,” we become invested in Atari and Chief’s human-dog bond, but the only reason they come to love each other so much is because of the journey they had to complete. “Bottle Rocket” has everyone rooting for Anthony (Luke Wilson) and Dignan (Owen Wilson) to save their friendship despite the ways in which they have hurt each other. If they hadn’t gone on Dignan’s adventure, however, they might not have become so much closer than they already were.
Basically, although Anderson loves exploring characters in his films, people often forget that his stories seem to be the basis of almost everything he does. “The French Dispatch” shows Anderson demonstrating his fantastic ability to tell a story.
If you took away all his technique, all the mystifying visuals and all of the unique cinematography, would a Wes Anderson film be as good as it actually is with those things? No. But, would it still be great? Of course. Fans and critics alike focus so much on Anderson’s direction and design that they forget to look at what he is doing beneath the surface.
“The French Dispatch” lets the viewer into the colorful, pretentious Wes Anderson world, but more importantly, it tells extremely entertaining, fast-paced stories that will leave you thinking about human existence, art, love, rebellion, crime, journalism and relationships. Even though he is not focusing on one story like he is known for, he still creates an incredible work of art that feels unlike anything he has ever made.
Sure, Anderson shows off his animation and style abilities a little too much, but that’s expected. And sure, the film is pretentious along with most of his other work. But with incredible storytelling, performances by amazing actors and lines that will leave you laughing, this is one of Anderson’s best works to date.