The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson’s love letter to journalism has more laughs and quirkiness than flair.

I’ve been receiving comments lately about how my 3-star reviews would mean that I gave the movie or show a “C” grade, because 3 out of 4 is 75%. I also acknowledge a message Roger Ebert told Richard Roeper about how “ratings are relative, not absolute.” People should read the reviews “instead of looking at the dumb thumbs or the dumb stars, because there are graduations and context that go on.” My ratings on a scale of 0-4 stands, and I think people should be grateful I even gave the movie/show a good review at all.

The reason why I gave that “boring” intro is because I give Wes Anderson’s latest entry “The French Dispatch” 3 stars, instead of the 4 stars I’ve given to his last three opuses: “Moonrise Kingdom,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” and “Isle of Dogs.” The center of the film lags, but most of it is presented by Anderson’s unique and quirky style of filmmaking, and the eclectic cast he guides along the way.

And the fact that the story is told in the form of a newspaper, because it’s about a magazine known as “The French Dispatch,” which has just published its last issue, due to the death of its head editor Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray). It’s an American magazine, inspired by The New Yorker, written and published in a fictional French city, set between the 20s and 70s. Murray is viciously deadpan with his “No Crying” rule.

The movie is divided into different sections with three stories getting the most basis.

We enter the Arts section with the title: “The Concrete Masterpiece,” in which Benicio del Toro portrays a convicted murderer named Moses Rosenthaler, who is also a remarkable artist. The supporting cast in this section consist of Adrien Brody as the art dealer, who buys his latest work and exposes it to the world; Henry Winkler and Bob Balaban as his uncles; Lea Seydoux as the prison guard and art model for Moses’ opuses; Lois Smith as the art collector with the name “Maw;” and Tilda Swinton is the FD writer, who tells a crowd of people about the artist’s story.

Del Toro makes his Anderson debut with a sense of insanity and creativity, while Brody is charismatic and picky, and Seydoux has more guts than the ads give her credit for.

The next is the Politics/Poetry section with the title: “Revisions to a Manifesto,” in which Frances McDormand plays a FD journalist, who helps two bickering student revolutionaries-the chess genius Zeffirelli (Timothee Chalamet) and the aviator hat and goggles-wearing Juliette (Lyna Khoudri)-set aside their differences and fight their worthy cause.

The performances are good, but the story doesn’t give them much credit or does it create the kind of interest it deserves to have. This is the middle part I found lagging in an otherwise entertaining Anderson movie, but I love Chalamet’s hairstyle and Khoudri’s aviator hate and goggles (like something out of Amelia Earhart or Rocky the Flying Squirrel).

And the last story picks up the pace a bit in the Tastes and Smells section with the title: “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” in which Jeffrey Wright plays the FD food journalist, who is invited to dinner by the French police commissioner (Mathieu Amalric), whose son (Winsen Ait Hellal) gets kidnapped by Edward Norton’s Chauffeur character. The journalist retells his experiences on a talk show hosted by Liev Schreiber; and the co-stars include Willem Dafoe as an accountant locked in a chicken coop, Saoirse Ronan as a show girl, and Stephen Park as a professional chef.

Wright has the right kind of poignant tone as the food journalist, whose hairdo looks like something out of Elvis Presley, and when he narrates his experiences. And Park is unbelievably riveting as the cook who knows his flavors and willingness.

With more supporting stars like Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzmann, Elisabeth Moss, Anjelica Huston, and Christoph Waltz, “The French Dispatch” had me giggling and amazed at how Anderson keeps pushing and never lets go. I love how he adds stop motion and illustrations to the story, and it’s not often we get to see the police break through walls to catch the bad guys. I wish it could have been as exhilarating as his last three entries, but they all can’t be winners. I still say you should go see it for yourselves.

Rating: 3 out of 4.

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Categories: comedy, Drama, Romance

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