#LFF2021: The French Dispatch – Review – ★★½
A style over substance technicolor homage to the great American magazine with few moments of magic and lots of so what.
- Gorgeous Wes visuals. Check.
- A starry cult cast. Check.
- A story you care about. Hell no.
Artist and Director Wes Anderson is back with an anthology of mini-adventures all wrapped up to be The French Dispatch. The concept of each short story being a section of the last edition of a fabled magazine (think New Yorker) is at first cute. However, quite soon the collage concept becomes tiresome mix of quirky, but hard to love, elite journalism.
Memorable nostalgic stories include an art epic with Anderson favourite Tilda Swinton as batty gallery owner and Benicio del Toro as inmate come art prodigy Moses Rosenthaler. It is a good parody of the art world and its eccentric characters, but does little but make you titter.
The 60s Paris revolutionaries style piece with Hollywood teen heartthrob Timothée Chalamet and easy to watch French actress Lyna Khoudri seems to be the centrepiece of the collection. But aside from stylish scenography set around the rebel cafe hangout the Le Sans Blague (which is being recreated by 180 Strand in London) there was little of note.
Jeffrey Wright’s incredible deep voiceovers thrill but ultimately his story touches lightly on issues of being homosexual and channels James Baldwin as a food critic discovering life through food writing.
Other pieces range from an odd sketch of the cycling report with Owen Wilson, and very brief glimpses of Bill Murray as the magazine’s editor but no real stand out in the magazine scenes.
Overall the film needed a stronger through line to tie all these quirky puff pieces together and make the beautiful visuals get to your heart not just your eyes.
The end credits dedicate the film to writers such as James Baldwin. Wes Anderson should channel his creative energy into igniting and platforming these writers’ stories not just listing them as inspiring legends.