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The French Dispatch Review: The Most Wes Anderson Movie Ever

If you’re someone who doesn’t enjoy Wes Anderson films because they’re twee and irksome (not my words), then this review probably isn’t for you, and neither is The French Dispatch. Set in the offices of a fictional 19th-century French newspaper, The French Dispatch is packed full of tropes from its director’s previous movies, and would make for a thrilling game of Wes Anderson bingo.

Title cards, symmetrical framing, deadpan delivery, the list goes on, and Wes leaves none of his signature style out. With that said, though, this isn’t your typical Wes Anderson movie apart from its stylistic cliches. The French Dispatch opens during a staff meeting at the titular publication, chaired by its eccentric editor Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray) but soon breaks into several extended short films that make up the features of an edition of the newspaper.

Frances McDormand plays investigative journalist Lucinda Krementz, whose piece on student activist Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) includes an unexpected romance and Jarvis Cocker as a lounge singer called Tip-Top. Then there is Tilda Swinton, who delivers a lecture on Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), an ultra-violent artist courted by high society and locked up in a maximum-security prison. The most interesting is Jeffrey Wright’s chapter in which a Fantastic Mr Fox style kidnapping ends in Tommy gun-toting armageddon.

Those three main stories are intertwined with shorter vignettes featuring a star-studded cast. Owen Wilson rides an old bike before accidentally crashing down some subway stairs in true Peter Sellers fashion. The stories are strung together by moments where Murray’s newspaperman discusses copy with his team of writers, trading witty one-liners as they disagree with each other. These scenes connect the main stories, giving them a central narrative that saves The French Dispatch from being simply a series of back-to-back Wes Anderson shorts.

I’m not complaining, though, and The French Dispatch is probably Anderson’s funniest work since Moonrise Kingdom. It certainly contains some of the best performances. Regulars like Murray, Brody and McDormand do the heavy lifting and newcomers Chalamet, and Lêa Seydoux bring a freshness to an otherwise familiar antiquated aesthetic. The haters will hate, but like it or not, this is top-drawer Wes Anderson.

The French Dispatch is out in theatres now.

Matt Jones

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