‘The French Dispatch’ Review

By: Amanda Guarragi

There have been films that highlight journalists in great detail. Majority of them have a serious, dramatic tone, and never stray from that. If anyone could make journalism, whimsical and somewhat fun, it’s Wes Anderson. Of course, Anderson uses unconventional methods to pay homage to writers who have moulded pop culture with their words. Nonetheless, he adds such depth to this script through the stunning visuals he created. The French Dispatch is a love letter to journalists set in an outpost of an American newspaper in a fictional 20th-century French city that brings to life a collection of stories published in “The French Dispatch.”

If you love Wes Anderson, this is the most Wes Anderson film you will ever get. The only issue with The French Dispatch is the script. The structure of this film was interesting because of the collection of stories being divided up into acts. It almost felt like watching a play on screen. Even though there were clear endings to each segment, the tone shift was a bit jarring between each of them. What Anderson does best is tell a story through images. Majority of the time, while watching this, I was lost in the production design, and was less focused on the dialogue. The script is incredibly dense and it can be difficult to keep up with what is happening, let alone trying to make sense of it.

As much as I love this cast, and how wonderfully different this film is, it is style over substance. Anderson created beautiful frames in each segment with characters in tableaux, which added depth to each plain. Each movement was calculated to fill the frame to have a layered image on screen. He also switched from black and white to colour, quite effortlessly, without it feeling forced or jumpy. This cast is also impressive and some stood out more than others. The stars of this film were, Benicio Del Toro, Adrien Brody, Tilda Swinton, Timothée Chalamet, and Jeffrey Wright. In their own chapters, they created eccentric characters that elevated their story. You can pinpoint the moments where they connected with the material and went one step further to make it memorable.

The French Dispatch is a strong film because of the technical aspects, but the structure and script are not strong enough to match the stylistic elements. But the third chapter, the dialogue is exhausted, and it is hard to grasp the material. What Anderson does in this film is bold (like majority of his filmography) but it suffers from the symmetrical flashiness because of the dense script. It does pay homage to journalists but the message is loss because of each story. If you are a fan of Wes Anderson, then this film is definitely for you. But, if you have struggled to connect to some of his work, then this won’t be as impressive.

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