This weekend, acclaimed director Wes Anderson released his 10th feature film “The French Dispatch,” and it might be his most ambitious yet.
Anderson manages to pack dozens of characters, well-planned arcs and ingenious writing into segments much smaller than what he and his audience are used to. Each segment has something to love that sets it apart from the rest.
The movie tells the story of the French division of a Kansas magazine, the “Evening Sun.” Bill Murray plays the editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr., and leads a staff of reporters played by stars like Owen Wilson, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Jeffrey Wright as they work to create the final issue of “The French Dispatch.”
Unlike Anderson’s past films, “The French Dispatch” is made up of several distinct sections, representing articles published by the different reporters. There are three main stories, varying wildly but all sharing the classic Anderson aesthetic.
The first is titled “The Concrete Masterpiece” and is about a criminally insane painter, played masterfully by Benicio del Toro, who has his big break in a prison art class after using a guard as a nude model.
The second is “Revisions to a Manifesto,” about students, led by King Timothée Chalamet, taking to the streets to fight for their rights against the police. Meanwhile, the reporter, played by McDormand, can’t keep from inserting herself into the story (something I would never do).
The final piece is “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” which features a famous cop/chef, Steve Park’s Lt. Nescaffier, saving the commissioner’s son from an attempted kidnapping … through food.
One of the highlights of “The French Dispatch” is the incredible ensemble cast. We get to see dozens of Anderson’s recurring players, like Edward Norton and Willem Dafoe, but it’s the newcomers who really steal the show, especially del Toro and Chalamet. It’s as if they were born to be in his movies. Weirdos flock to Anderson like moths to a lamp.
But it’s the story that makes you stay. Whether they’re captains of a deep-sea submarine or literally animated foxes, the characters in Anderson’s stories are always entirely human, and “The French Dispatch” is no exception.
Behind the bright colors and refined comedy is the deep-seated feeling of melancholy that comes with being a human being. A smile is an accessory, just like the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, masking a universal sense of loneliness.
But for every tortured artist who will never be able to have what’s right in front of them, for every brave young rebel fighting for an impossible cause and for every passionate chef willing to lay down their life for an unattainable flavor, there is still so much hope. There’s beauty. There’s pure unbridled joy. This, at its core, is what “The French Dispatch” is about.
It’s about people. Not just the people who do remarkable things, but the people who risk it all to be there and see those things happen. The people who care enough to put it on paper and share it with the world. This one is for the journalists.