Wes Anderson is probably the most recognizable filmmaker working today, with his constant use of vibrant colors and an almost unhealthy obsession with framing symmetry.
His style has slowly been building and evolving, while also somehow standing in place, since his first film endeavor with “Bottle Rocket” in 1996 up to what many — including myself — call his magnum opus “The Grand Budapest Hotel” in 2014.
Despite being described as positively quirky by his fans and overwhelmingly pretentious by the people who do not enjoy his films, it is hard to deny the clout and power that Anderson seems to have in Hollywood.
Anderson is one of the few working filmmakers today, including the likes of Denis Villeneuve and Christopher Nolan, who is able to make an original film, one after another, and still continuously get funding that is almost exclusively reserved for franchise movies. Their movies might not always earn billions at the box office, but critically, their projects are as consistent as Anderson’s filming style.
“The French Dispatch,” or if we want to be as pretentious and quirky as Anderson, we will call it by its full name “The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun,” is his latest project, exploding with “Wes Andersonisms,” while also being the most chaotic project of his colorful career.
As per usual, it would be almost impossible to correctly give a summary of what the film is actually about, because Anderson’s storytelling is always layered with several different meanings, from the surface quirky ones to the pain hiding behind his characters’ moments of comedy and weirdness.
In short, this movie follows three different storylines that depict a newspaper creating its final issue.
As mentioned before, this movie is utter chaos, and it jumps from being fun confusion to bewilderment about the point of it all, really. Despite the fact that there is a genuinely engaging storyline hidden behind all the ruckus happening on screen, it is hard to follow and sometimes loses its momentum because of that.
In Anderson’s usual fashion, there are a lot of famous actors in this film, most notably Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet and Jeffrey Wright, as well as countless others, some of whom have worked with Anderson for most of his career. Without spoiling anything, a lot of them end up having basically glorified cameos, just creating more underdeveloped chaos on screen.
The one quality of this film that nobody in their right mind can deny is its cinematography and visual directing. The cinematographer Robert Yeoman — critically praised for his work on the aforementioned “The Grand Budapest Hotel” — and Anderson play with almost every format and color palette to be seen in cinema’s history, and they do it in such a magical way that I never wanted to turn away from the screen, no matter how overwhelmed I felt about its narrative.
This is the hardest rating I’ve had to decide on. I loved everything about it, but I understand everyone who dislikes it as well.
On one hand, this film’s constant narrative mayhem is definitely a huge hurdle for anyone unfamiliar with Anderson’s style. On the other hand, “The French Dispatch” is Anderson at his funniest and most free, allowing him to create a visual marvel that all his fans will love. I wish I could give “The French Dispatch” three stars for the general masses, but five stars for his fans.
I will settle for meeting in the middle, by saying that originality like this should be supported, and hoping that Anderson’s “final issue” does not come anytime soon.