Do you like Wes Anderson movies? I’m not asking if you saw one or two and liked them okay. I’m asking if you’re a fan of the filmmaker’s quirky aesthetic, characters and dialogue and someone who is inherently excited about seeing pretty much anything he makes. Or conversely, are you turned off by it? Because how you answer that question will inherently make a huge difference to whether you should see The French Dispatch.
The public for which the film is entitled is a supplement to the Liberty, Kansas Evening Star, edited by quiet eccentric Howard Pulitzer, Jr (Bill Murray), whose recurring instruction to his reporters is “Try and make it sound like you wrote it that way on purpose.” As the film begins Pulitzer has passed away, and left instructions for the Dispatch to end with him . The bulk of the film consists of three “Feature stories” from past editions covered in previous edition. So what we have is essentially an anthology film, but instead of getting multiple filmmakers each telling a story, all three are very distinctly Anderson’s:
The Concrete Masterpiece
Oscar winners Benicio Del Toro, Tilda Swinton and Adrien Brody join No Time To Die‘s Lea Seydoux in the story of an imprisoned murdered who is also brilliant artist.
Revisions to a Manifesto
Frances McDormand and Timothee Chalamet portray an journalist and a student revolutionary who influence each other during a brief affair.
The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner
Geoffrey Wright, Liev Schrieber and Soairse Ronan in the tale of a police commissioner’s son who is kidnapped and held for ransom.
Thankfully, one difference between The French Dispatch and most anthologies is that there is not a huge disparity in quality between the segments, though I found the second a little compelling than those on either side of it. While the structure of the film doesn’t give us characters we come to know deeply enough to form true emotional connections (the possible exception being Wright’s lonely and melancholy gay correspondent), I found it to be laugh out loud funny, beautifully, sometimes pretentious, sometimes haunting, and overall mesmerizing.