#REVIEW: “THE FRENCH DISPATCH”
Review by Nicholas Porteous for Mr. Will Wong
With The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson proves once again: it IS in fact possible to be even more Wes Andersony. Even more absurdly dry, niche, visually exacting, you name it! He’s got MORE of it. The Anthology film is composed of three medium-sized helpings bookended by a smaller entrée and a tiny dessert. Like most latter Wes Andersons, for better and worse, it is a labyrinth of whimsy more intricate and insane than any cuckoo clock.
Inevitably, the three main stories vary in quality. My personal favourite comes first–an account of imprisoned artistic genius Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), his muse Simone (Léa Seydoux), and his obsessive patron Julia Cadazio (Adrien Brody)–framed by hilarious Art Historian JKL Berensen (Tilda Swinton). It is by far the most affecting and profound tale, with a core relationship that kept me pondering the nature of artists and their subjects long after the credits. The second story of Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet), a Revolutionary Leader and Chess Champ, alongside a Journalist with a questionable sense of boundaries (Frances McDormand), is the weakest of the three–although it never fails to dazzle visually. Like lesser Wes Anderson, the story and characters all just kind of feel like an excuse to get dressed up and look amazing. Finally, the story of Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) and his chronicle of an elaborate kidnapping is the action-adventure setpiece of the group. The visual gusto and animated Choreography is explosive.
Though I greatly enjoyed The French Dispatch on a moment-to-moment basis, when the end came I was left with a bizarre shape of a film. I was unsure what to do with it. Some might see this as a strength. It’s definitely the best adaptation of a fictional French magazine you’ll see this decade, but I felt a bit hungry leaving the theatre, perhaps for some sense of unity, or an emotional through-line as opposed to an endless gallery of interesting, somewhat isolated characters and jokes. The French Dispatch exceeds other Wes Anderson works as a quirky peak into another realm, but in terms of its emotional punch, it’s on the lower end of the spectrum.
Searchlight Pictures release THE FRENCH DISPATCH in theatres October 22, 2021.
*Please exercise caution observing COVID-19 protocols if seeing this in-theatre*