There is always a funny reaction in film circles when you mention the name Wes Anderson. Either the person you are talking to will start to tell you that Anderson is a genius or they will nod and then say “yeah no thanks.”
Yes like a lot of classic things Anderson is an acquired taste and one that people either love and or hate. Myself? Well, I’m in the former category. I fell in love with the work of Mr. Anderson when I discovered The Darjeeling Limited. I loved its quirkiness, I loved how different it was and from then on I was hooked.
If though you are in the other camp then there is no way that you will ever be able to get into The French Dispatch, for me though this is one of the films of the year. Only Anderson could bring together stories like this and have the end result be something as special as this.
The film is pulled together by a fictional magazine known as The French Dispatch who is edited by the forthright but slightly crazy Arthur Howitzer Jnr (Bill Murray – Lost In Translation). He has pulled together a group of eccentric writers including the intrepid Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand – Fargo), J.K.L Berensen (Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer), the cycling crazy Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson – Wedding Crashers), and food critic Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright – Shaft).
The film itself is made up of the stories they are telling in their articles from a mysterious painter (Benicio Del Toro – Sicario) who is in love with his prison guard (Lea Seydoux – No Time To Die) through the story of opposing revolutionary leaders who are in love with each other.
That is where there are strengths and weaknesses with this film. The film comes together like a bunch of short films with a common theme, and like all short films, there are the good and bad. The stories such as the one involving the artist and Owen Wilson’s fast-moving trip through a small town are brilliant but some of the others drag. The good news for audiences though is the good ones clearly outweigh the bad ones.
The stroke of Anderson’s genius is on show throughout the film. His quirky humor is always on show throughout the film and I’ll be quick to admit that I found myself laughing throughout the film. The brilliant thing is that humor comes in all forms – from witty one-liners through to visual humor. The best part though is that every joke lands and gets a laugh.
The other highlight for me was the fact that Anderson brings so many different kinds of filmmaking to the game with this film. From animation, through to fast-paced European comedy and then to classic black and white cinema, there isn’t anything Anderson isn’t willing to try and somehow he ends up being a master to them all.
Likewise always with an Anderson film the cast is a case of a who’s who of Hollywood. Actors like Willem Dafoe (The Card Counter) and Edward Norton (Motherless Brooklyn) turn up in a blink and you will miss them roles but it is the stars of this film that steal the show. Owen Wilson steals the show in his all too brief storyline while Benicio Del Toro shines playing an artistic killer trying to paint while locked away in prison.
As in normally the case with Anderson films it is Bill Murray that brings everything together. When it comes to Anderson’s work Murray is the ringmaster and the film his circus. He leads the way and it is obvious no other actor quite enjoys the quirkiness of Anderson’s work the way that Murray does. Having said that though this is an ensemble film where every actor is at the top of their game and the result is yet another classic Anderson film.
If you are not already a fan of Anderson’s work then this isn’t the film that is going to win you over. This film feels like it has been made for the Anderson tragic, it has his tropes all over it and once again the result is something magical. The film is slightly let down by the weaker ‘parts’ but for the most part this is an enjoyable ride.