‘The French Dispatch’ Review: A movie for readers and writers


Jackson Piercy

The faćade of the titular publication. Photo from imdb.com.

Before college, I had basically zero journalism experience. Going into this major, I’ve been asked time and time again, “Why do you want to be a journalist? and I haven’t had an answer that satisfied anybody until very recently. I had a similar reaction to this film as I did my favorite movie ever, “School of Rock,” where I found that, above all else, I wanted to be doing what the people in the movie were depicted as doing. I can’t say that I’m a good enough musician to make a living with it, and journalism as a career seemed intriguing at the very least. This film has struck a chord with me that I haven’t felt in a very long time, and I can say that it’s for the very best.

“The French Dispatch” isn’t particularly concerned with any kind of overarching plot, but more the story of the last issue of the Dispatch in the wake of the editor, Arthur Howitzer, Jr. (Bill Murray). In the first story, a profile of the fictional city of Ennui, France, is given to us by the bicycle-bound Herbisaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson). The next, a profile of an acclaimed artist and double murderer Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio Del Toro), his struggles with prospective art profiteer Julian Cadazio (Adrien Brody) and his love affair with prison guard Simone (Léa Seydoux). This story is given in an art exhibition by the eccentric J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton). The third, covering the Ennui “Chessboard Revolution” centering around philosophically-minded Zefferelli (Timothée Chalamet) and the ideological hardliner Juliette (Lyna Khoudri), told through the eyes of the old maid of the publication, Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand). Finally, we have the story of a police commissioner (Mathieu Amalric), his chef, Nescaffier (Steven Park) and his recently kidnapped son, Gigi (Winsen Ait Hellal), in something of a combination police story and a love letter to food given by the remarkable memory of Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright).

I don’t think it would be hyperbole to say that this is Wes Anderson at the best we’ve seen him, possibly ever. His choice in shot composition and color grading is impeccable as always, but I think that these stylistic elements of his films are going to grab the average audience more than his writing, which I think is why this film should earn him the Oscar for screenwriting — at the very least a nomination. On top of all of this, we have a lot of the best talent working today here in a picture that is as slickly directed, written and edited as the treat of all treats. Everything looks right, sounds right and most importantly, feels right. This is a movie that I (and hopefully everyone else can) come back to, time and time again.

It’s hard to put into words what this film means to me, seeing as this is something of an ultimatum for me and that may influence my opinion of the film, but I don’t care. If there is even the slimmest chance that it may strike a similar chord for you as it did for me, then I’d say that you’d be doing yourself a major disservice by not watching it. See it, write about it and then see it again. It’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but when it hits, it hits.