The French Dispatch (2021) Review

Wes Anderson gets his best cast yet for one of the most spectacular films of the year.


The French Dispatch is a film directed by the great Wes Anderson and I had the chance to view this picture twice in theaters. This was my second experience being able to catch an Anderson film, the first time being Fantastic Mr. Fox. The first time I saw this film I watched it at my usual spot: Harkins on Estrella Falls. For the second watch, I had the pleasure of viewing this with Mr. Sain, our journalism teacher who unapologetically showed up in shorts and sandals. It was a great opportunity seeing as this film is about a journalistic magazine and who better to adapt a magazine than Wes Anderson. If you’re unaware of Wes Anderson’s other works, allow me to spark your interest. He’s known for his quirky characters and colorful stories that match with his symmetrical style, which he captures with the help of cinematographer Robert Yeoman. You see much of this in his biggest films, such as Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and Moonrise Kingdom. This new film without a doubt stands high among his filmography, and if me seeing it twice wasn’t enough evidence to let you know how wonderful this film was, allow me to explain further.

The plot of this film is very interesting as it is adapted from a magazine of the same name. It is broken down into six parts, and I’ll be going through them one by one. The intro is relativity short and the film gets straight to the point. It opens up going through the many writers of the magazine, including Arthur Howitzer Jr., played by the great Bill Murray, who has been in every Anderson film since Rushmore. The film goes through the magazine writers so charmingly, showing off only a percentage of its great cast.

The Cycling Reporter

The French Dispatch: See Exclusive Images from the Film Set

From there we go into our first section of the film that’s ran by no other than Wes Anderson’s first muse, Owen Wilson. In this charming and funny section, Herbsaint Sazerac bikes around a fictional town of Ennui which is actually just Angoulême in southwest France. It’s a very short, yet amusing section that takes you around this location in some clever ways. The past and present side by sides of certain areas gives you a deeper insight into the culture that resides in the area. A lot of the material featured in this section may be deemed as dirty or unflattering, as seen with the editor’s remarks on the section.

At the end of every piece, there’s a small scene with the editor critiquing or simply reading the story with the writer, and I found these scenes to add more personality to the film.

The Concreate Masterpiece

Entering the vibrant, idiosyncratic world of Wes Anderson's 'The French Dispatch'

Moving on, the next section is the first of what I call the three “main stories”. Off the bat I’ll say this is my favorite part of the whole film; it’s nearly perfect. Benicio Del Toro as Moses Rosenthaler and Lea Seydoux as Simone easily portray my two favorite characters in this film. The chemistry and movement between these two characters feel almost magical to a point where it feels just as fake as it is real, at least for a Anderson film. Wes Anderson from the start of his career had such a unique way of showing love in relationships and I always find them so moving to watch. In this section we see a young mentally ill artist turned into a maximum security prisoner who is a surprisingly strong lover. Within this section stars other great stars such as Adrien Brody, Bob Baladan, and Henry Winkler as the greedy, pretentious art distributors. All sections of this film go very smoothly but my only complaint with this section is the fact that it’s not longer; I could so easily watch an entire film based on this story alone. There’s many beautiful moments within this section that you’d have to see to be able to really understand, so go see this film.

Revisions to a Manifesto

THE FRENCH DISPATCH | “Revisions to a Manifesto” by Lucinda KREMENTZ #newsletter - YouTube

The film doesn’t stop there- in fact that’s just the beginning. The middle of this film presents to us another moving story full of action, politics, and love. Frances McDormand as Lucinda Krementz and Timothee Chalamet as Zeffirelli. It also stars the lovely Lyna Khoudri who played the very intriguing character Juliette. This section of the film might be my least favorite; however, that doesn’t mean it was bad at all. I found the main story of a journalist following this young ‘revolutionary’ man around his world quite immersive, but I also found it to fall just slightly flat at times. This still wasn’t enough for me to diminish this film at any point. The story between the characters in this section feel dense at times but not too overwhelming; there’s a lot going on in this section but it is told very smoothly.

The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner

From 'Westworld' to Wes's World: Jeffrey Wright on 'The French Dispatch' | Vanity Fair

Onto the last “Story” this film presents to us – and it’s quite certainly extraordinary. Wes Anderson has such a unique way of mixing his strict style with some exciting substance, and personally I think this section of the film shows that more than anything else. A simple story about a writer and his experience with a renowned cook that stars Jeffery Wright as the writer ‘Roebuck Wright’, and Stephen Park as the cook ‘Nescaffier.’ This turns into an engaging, thrilling, and surprisingly poetic story about food and kidnapping. The most interesting part of this section is that it’s told from the perspective of a TV interview with the writer and adds a layer of depth and meaning to not just the story, but also what the story means to its writer.


The Death of the Editor: Wes Anderson's "The French Dispatch" on Notebook | MUBI

The film closes off with the death of the main editor and founder of ‘The French Dispatch’, Arthur Howitzer. We see all the characters we met in the beginning grieve over the death of their boss and come up with a final article revealing his death and the man he was.

This is a film full of colorful, engaging characters and some intriguing stories. It’s also one of Wes Anderson’s most beautiful looking films and is shot and directed extremely well. Anderson, Roman Coppola, and Guinness wrote quite a beautiful script. Overall, I can’t recommend this film enough. It’s one of Anderson’s best and without a doubt one of the best of the year.

5/5 – This film is my Rushmore, Max.