- Run time : 1 hour 47 minutes
- Studio : Searchlight Pictures
- Director : Wes Anderson
- Where to Watch : HBO Max
As the staff writers of The French Dispatch begin to write an obituary for their editor in chief, their greatest stories and interactions with their boss is shared.
The French Dispatch is an anthology movie directed by Wes Anderson (The Grand Budapest Hotel, Fantastic Mr. Fox) starring an insane cast including Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Adrien Brody, Léa Seydoux, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Benicio Del Toro, Edward Norton, Steve Park, Owen Wilson, and so many more. Set in the fictional French town of Ennui, a magazine titled The French Dispatch is headquartered and staffed by an eccentric editor in chief with his hand-selected team of expatriate writers. A series of five short stories are told as if the audience is reading them from the magazine itself including the local report, politics, cuisine, art, and an obituary.
Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), editor and owner of The French Dispatch, has just died unexpectedly from a fatal heart attack. His obituary is narrated during the first few minutes which indicates that his final will and testament states that the publication of the magazine should cease immediately upon his death. As the staff writers begin to work on Howiter’s obituary to cap off the final issue, they reminisce about some of their most memorable stories involving their editor.
The Cycling Reporter, a column written by Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson) talks about the city’s hot spots and highlights the massive but minimal ways the city has changed throughout its history. The Concrete Masterpiece written by J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton) tells the stunning origin story of the modern art piece Simone, Naked, Cell Block-J Hobby Room by Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro) and his relationship with a prison guard (Léa Seydoux) and his art dealer Julien Cadazio (Adrien Brody). The politics section is headlined by Revisions to a Manifesto, written by Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), who observed a small student revolution led by Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet) that spread into something real and meaningful after the forced conscription of one of the students. Lastly, The Dining Room of the Police Commissioner by Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) tells a harrowing tale of kidnapping by the outlaw Chauffuer (Edward Norton) and culinary excellence by Lt. Nescaffier (Steve Park).
There’s too much talent on this roster to look through each individual performance, but many of these stars are familiar with the Wes Anderson way of doing things and the chemistry of that relationship comes through in spades as each line of dialogue is delivered in a perfectly dry and witty fashion. While not a gut-busting hilarious movie, there are quieter and smaller moments of humor spread throughout thanks to the writing contributions of Roman Coppola and Hugo Guinness. The stories are portrayed on screen as if they were truly written for a magazine publication and it feels that way in every instance, but then it feels like a workplace comedy in the intermissions between each story where Howitzer Jr. delivers his edits to each story.
Presented in a square format and mixing between black and white vs. color film and even a short animated sequence, The French Dispatch is full of gorgeous scenes with many different layers to deconstruct. Press pause in any scene and there are so many details crammed into every frame to look at. Clever editing makes each scene pop with motion and depth that is both pleasing and adds the whimsical element that Wes Anderson movies are known for.
Most ensemble movies struggle with having too many recognizable faces and unintentionally create a Rick Dalton Pointing Meme experience. There are exceptions, like most of the later Avengers movies most notably. However, Wes Anderson is able to construct a quick sub-2-hour movie with plenty of breathing room for everyone. While nobody stands out as the shining star amongst stars, everyone brings their own unique flair and makes their story their own. A very whimsical and loving caricature of journalism, The French Dispatch tells five unique short stories that would appear inside of a mid-20th-century magazine. Interesting visuals, witty dialogue, and masterful editing await inside this humorous and well-crafted movie.