Watching a Wes Anderson movie is like nothing else you will experience that year and The French Dispatch is exactly that; a unique experience that is full of laughter and drama, excitement and quiet, a well-structured script with lots of improvisation. It is an audiovisual experience that is levels above everything else that came out this year with themes of loneliness, companionship, connection and relationships, alongside observations and undertones of social class to ground the wacky and quirky things that happen in this movie. Underneath everything, a pure love for good journalism; the kind that can make any story fascinating, that rejects objectivism in favor of portraying people and situations through a perspective that is as flawed as they are.
The French Dispatch is largely separated in 5 sections. It is the story of Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) and…his obituary. Arthur was the owner and editor of “The French Dispatch” and decided that when his time was up, the magazine would be sold, which means that this obituary is not only about the man, but it is also about the magazine. The movie is a depiction of the last articles to ever feature in this magazine; written and directed by Wes Anderson, this can only mean one thing – cinematic magic! These feature a number of well known and highly capable actors such as Benicio Del Toro, Frances McDormand, Willem Dafoe, and many, many others, who are all clearly delighted to be re-united with Anderson or participating in one of his movies for the first time, and all provide thoroughly entertaining performances. These actors manage to provide the themes and the dramatic exploration of these characters, the respect and gravitas they deserve, but also are directly responsible for some of the best laughs in the movie.
However, we all have our favorite things about Wes Anderson movies and, for me, it is all about the visuals. His obsessive composing of moving props and objects doing a task, perfectly completing it just as the narrator stops; his placement of characters evoking ever-lasting moments; the perfect symmetry of everything. The French Dispatch may be my favorite in that regard; even with the movie moving back and forth from black & white to color, the use of colors, the coordination of all the crazy things that you see to happen in a controlled and intended way. I don’t want to go into too many details, because it is a movie best intended for the big screen with as little information as possible. Long-time collaborator on non-animation movies Robert Yeoman as the cinematographer has done an excellent job once again.
In general, every department behind the camera did an excellent job. Alexandre Desplat composed a brilliant score that even stole the show in some sections; Andrew Weisblum did a brilliant job editing this movie together; Adam Stockhausen and team of producers, production designers, and artists, did a wonderful job finding the right spots, populating and designing them with the right props, and picking out the right outfits for the characters. Their hard work results in a movie where you want to find out who did what and congratulate them on ensuring their part was not the one that slightly hinged our enjoyment of this movie.
I don’t think there needs to be too many more words in this article. Wes Anderson movies are something that you’re either into or not, but if you are you don’t need to be told to go see this because that was always going to happen; even if the reception to it isn’t as glowing as it usually is (like with The French Dispatch), I’ll always be excited for a new Wes Anderson movie, because there is nothing else like it. My overwhelmingly positive reaction to The French Dispatch may stem from the particularly impressive visuals and pacing, the brilliant storytelling that resonated with me especially this time round, and how much I love that whimsical mood I have every time I am transported in one of his worlds. You simply must see The French Dispatch.