“The French Dispatch” – Another Anderson film filled with wonder and…Ennui?

“He brought the world to Kansas.”

Story: Arthur Howitzer Jr. was one of the best journalists Kansas had to offer. Stationed in the little town of Ennui-sur-Blasé, France, he created a wildly popular newspaper with a worldwide circulation. But when he passes away, the Dispatch is to pass away as well. So why not take a good look at the articles in this final edition?

Genre I’d put it in: Andersonville

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: A Wes Anderson joint is always original. But you will get the same comforting, unusual vibe he typically has in his ouvre, along with many of the usual actors from his earlier films.

Gotta say: It seems most moviegoers either love Anderson, or hate him. There’s a particular kind of dreamlike stream of consciousness you either roll with, or roll your eyes at. And I understand both sides. I’m a big fan, though even I can’t stand the navel-gazing of Bottle Rocket. Maybe it’s just, as a friend’s brother put it, “a dude film” – at first viewing, I loved The Royal Tenenbaums because I had a batshit childhood. But with Anderson’s usual style, he tends to focus on one or two characters or stories. In Dispatch, he takes a look at an entire town, or at least the view of this town from the eyes (and typewriters) of the eccentric members of the title-drop newspaper. And while there were many moments where I had absolutely zero idea what the hell was going on, I had a wonderful time letting the crazy town Anderson created wash over me.

The film is broken down into sections, much the same way a newspaper is, with asides showing Bill Murray’s Howitzer interacting with the writer of the particular section. Each vignette starts with a look at the article’s introductory illustration and then dives straight into the bizarre facts of the “piece”. There are the usual members of Anderson’s stable of performers, along with several new faces that fit in perfectly. Shout-out to newcomers to the fold, Jeffrey Wright (always a pleasure to watch him do his stuff), Henry Winkler, Benicio Del Toro, and Steve Park. These talented folks do a lot of heavy lifting in their respective tales. Younglings will note Timothée Chalamet and Lyna Khoudri as “teens” in a story about a riot in Ennui, and while this was the story that truly lost me 90% of the time, these two held my focus thanks to the way they both seemed to truly love digging in to their off-kilter characters.

The gorgeous cinematography and use of color in the sets and costumes Anderson is known for is also present here. In fact, the story of an imprisoned artist creating pieces that stun the art world feels a bit like a wormhole of arthouse reverence and silliness. But in-between the crazy, the colors and styles, and the glorious performances, is a tale that wrapped me up in its affection for the sadly fading profession of print journalism. This is a love-letter-y as Anderson gets, a strange yet beautiful look at how a hodgepodge of make-believe oddballs put together one last look at the world through their eyes. Dispatch is art. It’s crazy. It’s devil-may-care. I dig it.

Grade: B+

#Protip: While I thoroughly enjoyed Dispatch, I kinda wish we’d gotten Anderson’s first idea for this film; a musical. I feel a bit cheated. Who wouldn’t love to see Murray belt out a tune or two?

About Denise

Professional nerd. Lover of licorice.
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