"The French Dispatch" is the newest film by writer and director Wes Anderson. He is in his early 50s now and is probably considered among the most overdue filmmakers in Hollywood to finally win an Oscar, especially in terms of writing. Unfortunately, this work here will not get him any closer because I believe it is inferior compared to most of the stuff he has done in the past and if it gets nominated, then for art direction or something. But first things first: This runs for briefly under 110 minutes and Anderson once again worked with Hugo Guinness, Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman and this quartet came up with the story. Basically, it is several stories in one film. We have the framework and three pretty much independent stories that are articles from the paper this is all about. The French Dispatch. The cast, as always with Wes Anderson, is packed with big names and he also has a tendency to cast people who he worked with in previous films. I will not give you all the names because you can check out the list yourself. Even some characters who had almost no screen time at all are played by very familiar faces (Henry Winkler for example, I recognized him immediately, but the name I just could not remember while watching). But some actors who get a lot of screen time are Oscar winners Benicio Del Toro and Frances McDormand. Also Timothée Chalamet is included a lot here. Jeffrey Wright gets a solid amount of minutes in the final chapter. I personally also found it nice to see Adrien Brody here as one of Anderson's regulars because I liked the actor (another Oscar winner) and I don't see him that often in other projects anymore nowadays. Tilda Swinton I must admit I did not even recognize. She is so much better usually than in this film, even if the material is to blame for the most part. Nothing to work with kinda. One of three females though exposing their breasts. Lyna Khoudri (another one) was easy on the eyes for sure. Willem Dafoe definitely did not have a lot of screen time and I would have liked him to be featured a lot more here. What can I say, I like the actor. A lot.
One thing that came to my mind again is that Anderson likes to include young, here even very young, actors for his stories. Of course, not as heavily as in Moonrise Kingdom, but those scenes with Saoirse Ronan were all about the little boy that got abducted. Steve Carell is not in this film though even if I was almost certain he was when I watched it. Ah yes, but Christoph Waltz is in here. He did a lot (when sitting on the table) with the nothingness he was given really. Another performer/character that would have deserved a much bigger deal of screen time. It also came to my attention how this film featured a decent amount of Bond actors. I mean with Seydoux, Waltz and Wright, it was a big reunion of the most recent Bond, even if they all share absolutely no screen time here because they are in different chapters. Add to that Amalric and Del Toro who have also played antagonists in Bond films in the past. Maybe others I forgot. Or who will show up in the post-Craig era. Sorry, my 007 obsession is once again getting the better of me. Anyway, I thought that Seydoux here was part of the by far best segment, the one with Del Toro at the center of it all. She also added a lot to that. How she looked into the cell there when Del Toro's character was talking to Brody's was hilarious in a typical Wes Anderson way. We also see her naked from really close. I mean she has been naked in other films, most of all "Blue is the Warmest Colour" ("La vie d'Adèle"), but still I was amazed how stunning and breathtaking she looked in this one here when she posed as a model for Del Toro's character's painting(s). Admittedly, this chapter still got a bit messy here and there, also in the end with the prison riot and an abrupt finish, but it was nonetheless the easily most enjoyable aspect to the entire film.
Things do get worse immediately afterwards. Way worse. I like Frances McDormand otherwise, even if maybe not as much as five or ten years ago. Three Oscars seem a little much. This film here is not helping either as far as I am concerned. The layers they brought to her character felt unauthentic and for the sake of it. Like how she is troubled, struggling with solitude maybe, but enough of an important fugure to see Timothée Chalamet's character naked in that pseudo funny scene from the trailer. Or make a connection with the same young man when they lie in bed together. Just as friends of course. Or how they leave the apartment on one occasion. Or how we hear the voice in her head saying to herself that she should stay quiet, stay out of it, but she just can't and steps forward and makes a speech to the young woman. That almost felt like an Oscar moment. She must say something. It is inevitable and what we hear is oh so true and thoughtful. But it was not just her of course. It was the entire chapter. Especially with Chalamet. With him I am not getting the hype at all. This cleaner rebel take on James Dean with curly hair they have been giving us for a while now I am not buying at all. His acting seems nothing special to me and I have seen him in quite a few films. These moments when they try to turn him into some icon like also with this movie when he is on the scooter with Khoudri's character, his head in the wind, the cigarette in his mouth. Really all make-believe. So exaggerated, but the sad thing is that there the film really took itself seriously I think. It was not one of the many comedic moments. Still, I am happy Khoudri got to star in here with the attention the film got. The last segment then with Jeffrey Wright whose character's name was also Wright was a bit better again, but also nothing inspiring. Looking at how well Anderson did in the past with food- and kitchen-themed segments, it was a bit of a disappointment too. The opening shot with what people drink at the place mentioned in the title was pretty much better than the entire third segment. Even if it was this brief, but typical Wes Anderson there. Very easy to identify. Just like the scene in which we have Owen Wilson's character cycle through the streets and all that happens there. Also the animals included.
Bill Murray I must mention too. He plays perhaps the most influential character of the entire film and like Wilson a regular with Wes Anderson too. However, he is just part of the framework, okay also talks to Wright for example, but he does not have as much screen time as you could have thought from the trailer. What else deserves to be mentioned here? Oh yes, there is a fairly long sequence of animation. No big surprise as Anderson has worked on animated movies as well in the past, but still felt a bit unusual to be included as a segment of a live action film. It was okay. Like the rest you could say, but did not stand out in terms of style either. Maybe it was funny how the really big and strong guy was up there holding on to the front shield of the car. I mean there are some fine moments that will make you smile and there is always creativity to Wes Anderson's films, but here I felt it was maybe a little less than you usually get with him. Perhaps it also had to do with the lack of color in this film from beginning to end. At times, it is even black-and-white, but it is never really a colorful film because it maybe would not have fit the subject too well. Beige is incredibly dominant here, especially with these scenes that take place at Bill Murray's character's office. Anderson also played a bit there with us. We think that Murray's character is already dead at the beginning, but then it is just all about the preparation of the actual death of Murray's character. We can be glad he is alive. Are we really? Do we care? In any case, in the end he is actually gone. We even see his corpse. But hey, no crying in his office. So yeah, I like some of Anderson's works a lot, but here I am almost tempted to give a negative recommendation. Only the strong first segment with Del Toro keeps me from doing so. I will still not judge you in a negative way if you turn off the film after said opening segment before the 45-minute mark and skip the rest of the movie. Admittedly, you would not be missing much, especially during that occasionally awful Chalamet segment, also with the character's death out of nowhere that turns him into an even bigger icon. Troubled genius, sigh. That's all and I hope with the next film(s), Wes Anderson will be back to his best again. I am optimistic he can be. (tt8847712)