Characters! Characters everywhere!
“The French Dispatch” is directed by Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Rushmore) and stars Benicio del Toro (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Usual Suspects), Adrien Brody (King Kong, Predators), Tilda Swinton (Doctor Strange, The Deep End), Léa Seydoux (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol, Spectre), Frances McDormand (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, Fargo), Timothee Chalamet (Interstellar, Little Women), Lyna Khoudri (Papicha, The Specials), Jeffrey Wright (Casino Royale, What If…?), Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace, Sound of Metal), Steve Park (Do the Right Thing, Warrior), Bill Murray (Ghostbusters, Stripes), and Owen Wilson (Loki, Cars). This film is a compilation of a few different written stories brought to life, all of which are told in The French Dispatch.
It’s been nearly a month since I watched this film, but before I went in, I’ve seen a number of Wes Anderson’s flicks. Much like Quentin Tarantino, Anderson has a distinct directorial style that I have not seen from anyone else. He shoots a number of his films with shots containing vibrant colors up the wazoo. One of his more recent pictures, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” which I enjoyed, shows a mix of aspect ratios from 4:3 to traditional scope widescreen. He has a flair to his work that if I were a director I almost want to resist at the risk of being deemed a copycat. But just because his quirks are obviously present in his directorial style, does not mean that the story in his films are sacrificed. Months ago, I put on “Moonrise Kingdom” for the first time and safe to say, I really enjoyed the connection the two main kids had with one another. The writing had this feel to it that explained everything you needed to know, but felt satisfyingly minimalistic. I don’t really have another way to describe it.
I was rather excited for “The French Dispatch.” I thought the marketing was decent, and hopefully it would be worth the wait after COVID-19 pushed this film back, just like everything else. Having seen it, I honestly think it is on the lower tier of Wes Anderson’s library. This does not say much however, because much like Christopher Nolan and Pixar, an inferior movie from Wes Anderson is still a movie many would kill to make. “The French Dispatch” is interestingly told because it’s not exactly one story, it’s a story that influenced the display of other stories. It kind of reminded me of the “Treehouse of Horror” specials that “The Simpsons” do every Halloween, although in this case it’s not the same characters in each story. I say that because the film is essentially a few different stories all told in the same newspaper. Each one has its set of main subjects, and they’re all after different goals. I kind of like this style of storytelling because there are a lot of movies that I watch nowadays where you have one character and their goals, everything feels very important. This feels lighthearted and fun, but it’s also not over the top. At the end of the day, the movie’s goal is to make the viewer have fun, which I did. Although that also brings in a minor complaint, even though there are characters that sew all the stories together, “The French Dispatch” does not have a specific character that I can look back on and remember as the center of the story, at least one that is particularly interesting when it comes to those at the French Dispatch. And frankly, even though these characters have their quirks, some of which may be due to Wes Anderson’s directing style, there is not one I can say I loved more than any other. This movie has so many characters that it’s hard to keep track of all of them. It especially does not help when you’re reviewing the movie nearly a month after seeing it.
Although just because there are so many characters that it makes the cast for a “Lord of the Rings” movie look small, does not mean that I did not enjoy any of the three stories. All of them were in fact, very good. I was delighted by all of them. The Concrete Masterpiece, which is a pretty creative title, is an interesting look at an artist who has to do time while also focusing on his work. Although of the few main stories, it was probably my least favorite. Revision to a Manifesto was wonderfully quirky, very Wes Anderson-esque. I loved the idea of a chessboard revolution, I would have never thought of that. Then again, I never play chess. If you put me in front of a chess board and it was my turn, I’d just slap the opponent’s pieces off the board and shout “Yay! I win!”
I would never fare well in a chess tournament.
The Private Dining Room with the Police Commissioner, which was the final story told of the bunch, was also a ridiculously entertaining piece of writing brought to life (even if it is fiction). I also think they did a good job at segmenting these stories in a certain way, because if you watch the movie, the real thing that connects all these stories together is the fact that they are presented in the same news outlet and are set in similar spots. There is not one specific story that has a main character that is directly tied to another, so they could have played around with all of them in whatever order they choose, but I think in terms of giving this film a satisfying conclusion, this final story was the best one, because not only is it, for what I recall, probably the most action-packed of all the stories presented, but it ends in such a way that is fitting for a finale. Not the story itself, but the aftermath of it where the people are talking about it. I will not go into detail about it, because I would rather have you see the movie yourself and be entertained by it.
If I had anything else to say about the film, I do think it did a good job with both the costuming and makeup. For the record, this film came out in a limited number of theaters the same weekend “Dune” had its wide release, so I got to see Timothee Chalamet (right) in two films on the same weekend. I could tell who Timothee Chalamet was on screen, but at times, at least from my eyes, he did not look like his real self. He looked like he could actually age a bit. But at times he’d also revert back to someone younger. It’s hard to describe. His outfit felt distinguished and he looked like he had his hair done a bit. His outlook was striking, and maybe having “Dune” come out at the same time had something to do with it, but it caught my attention nevertheless.
In the end, “The French Dispatch” is a delightful film that even though it is not Wes Anderson’s best work, is one I am looking back on with a smile. To be frank, as I wrote this review, I thought it would be fun to maybe watch it a second time. Maybe not in a theater, unless nothing else was out and I wanted to use my A-List for a free film. Either way, Wes Anderson made a delightful movie. The cast is incredible, although I wish I remembered all the characters. Although maybe that’s the advantage of a repeat viewing in this case. There’s so many characters, that they can only be appreciated in multiple viewings. I’m going to give “The French Dispatch” a 7/10.
“The French Dispatch” is now playing in theaters everywhere.
Thanks for reading this review! If you enjoyed this review, be sure to look forward to my reviews for “Last Night in Soho,” “Eternals,” “Ron’s Gone Wrong,” and “King Richard.” I cannot wait to get these reviews out for you all. I was gonna go see “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” this weekend, although I don’t know if I have the time. I was planning on seeing it with a couple other people, but it’s more or less a matter of what time works for them, as opposed to me. So a review may be coming, but I won’t be seeing it right now. If you want to see this and more on Scene Before, follow the blog either with an email or a WordPress account! Also, check out the official Facebook page! I want to know, did you see “The French Dispatch?” What did you think about it? Or, since I brought it up… What is your favorite “Treehouse of Horror” segment from “The Simpsons?” My favorite would probably have to be “Citizen Kang,” the one that coincided with the 1996 U.S. Presidential Election. Scene Before is your click to the flicks!