The Reel Review
Unconventional writer/director Wes Anderson’s tenth feature film is an anthology of stories honoring a newly-deceased newspaper publisher in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé (Boredom-upon-Apathy), as crafted by his beloved, eccentric staff for the newspaper’s farewell edition. The offbeat comedy is a tribute to a bygone era when journalists were considered heroes.
With Anderson’s now trademark all-star cast sprinkled throughout, his equally trademark irreverent humor permeates throughout this silly, clever comedy. Its vignettes include a send-up of the pretentiousness of the art world, a love letter to idealistic, narcissistic student revolutionaries and an off-the-wall crime caper stuffed inside an ode to French fine dining. Oscar winner Alexander Desplat (The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Shape of Water) provides the whimsical score with an animated sequence provided by local French artists under the direction of Anderson collaborator Gwenn Germain (Isle of Dogs).
Anderson’s meticulous attention to detail is impressive, with his detailed characters based on real life individuals. The primary cast includes Benicio Del Toro as a prison inmate/artist, Léa Seydoux (No Time to Die) as his frequently nude prison guard/muse, Tilda Swinton as a buck-toothed, glammed up art writer, Frances McDormand as pretty much herself, Timothée Chalamet as a wild-haired revolutionary, and Jeffrey Wright as a food critic caught up in a kidnapping.
There is a LOT going on in this movie, be it nonstop French/English linguistic inside jokes or an amped up frenetic energy that is extra even for Anderson. Fans will almost certainly need a repeat viewing to catch all the droll humor. For non-fans, the film is tedious and exhausting. Sputtering out of gas well before the ending, The French Dispatch is hardly Anderson’s best work, but for fans who appreciate his unique style, it is still a fun ride.
• The all-star cast has said this was the most exhilarating, challenging and fun they have ever had filming a movie, since every scene featured a combination of meticulously crafted script and as much improvisation as possible.
• Filmed in the southwestern French town of Angoulême because it resembled the France of yesteryear, The French Dispatch received a nine-minute standing ovation at the end of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.
• The film’s cast has won a total of 11 Oscars and its crew a total of eight Oscars. Despite seven nominations, Wes Anderson has never won an Oscar.