'The French Dispatch' is classic Wes Anderson
The Algerian-born designer Yves Saint Laurent once said, "Fashions fade, but style is eternal." And when talking about film, few directors have a style as distinct and as magical as Wes Anderson.
The French Dispatch covers the staff of a news magazine based in a tiny fictional town of baguettes, berets, and bicycles circa 1960. Just like a magazine, the film takes viewers through different stories on art, politics, culture, food and obituaries. In the familiar Wes Anderson vibe of static symmetrical cinematography and droll humor, The French Dispatch is one part eccentric stage tableau and one part pop-up book.
Wes Anderson films always have a clear (and deceptively simple) theme. The Royal Tenebaums (2001) is a picture of family dysfunction, and Moonrise Kingdom (2012) is a salute to childhood romance. The French Dispatch is a valentine to print journalism embracing, and magnifying, the idiosyncrasies of professional writers.
Speaking of writing, I will be shocked if this film is not nominated for its screenplay at every award ceremony next year. So many lines are chock full of strange, candid, didactic phrases, making each story unpredictable in the best way. It's this unpredictability that makes The French Dispatch fresh, self-assured and unique. Every actor expresses their lines so smoothly. But this verbal gracefulness evokes a natural awkwardness from their blunt deliveries, creating the Wes Anderson trademark of deliciously balanced comedy with firm earnestness.
How thoughtful that this film ends on the preparations for an obituary since many outlets of print publication so often appear to be dying (or at least suffering). At the height of Oscar season, with so many serious films playing right now (like the somber, large-scale blockbusters Dune and Eternals to the dark, internally emotional drama Spencer) it's great to have something funny and charming to watch.
Similar to how Dune reminded viewers that a science-fiction action film can be intelligent and layered, so does The French Dispatch remind us all that comedies can be surprising and not formulaic.