The French Dispatch: Film Review

Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures

You generally know what you’re going to get with a Wes Anderson film – a picture that is fun, eccentric, well-written and full of all his usual suspects – and The French Dispatch ticks all those boxes.

Inspired by his love of The New Yorker, Anderson’s latest comedy is an anthology film depicting journalists from The French Dispatch magazine, the foreign bureau of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun based in the fictional town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. It brings to life three of the magazine’s stories: The Concrete Masterpiece by J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton), about a prisoner named Moses (Benicio del Toro) who becomes a famous painter for his pieces inspired by his guard Simone (Lea Seydoux); Revisions to a Manifesto by Lucinda Krementz (Frances McDormand), who profiles a student revolutionary named Zefferelli (Timothee Chalamet), and The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner by Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright), who recounts the time he got caught up in a kidnapping plot while having dinner with the police commissioner.

I liked the concept of the film and the way it was structured into magazine sections but I wasn’t blown away by any of the stories. They are fun and entertaining but they don’t really amount to much. I liked parts of each storyline but never the whole thing – the stories have lots of asides and tangents and they can be hard to follow at times as the narration and dialogue are generally spoken very quickly (an Anderson movie trademark). They often felt like a case of style over substance and rather shallow and lightweight.

Although I didn’t care for them very much, I must admit the stories were amusing and made me chuckle often, although I didn’t laugh out loud as regularly as other people in my screening. It is very well-written and there are some great comedic moments told with Anderson’s distinctive flair for absurdity and eccentricity. Some moments are just so silly and oddball! If you like the director’s sense of humour, you’ll get along with this just fine, but this isn’t the ideal entry film for Anderson newbies as it is peak Anderson and not quite as accessible to the masses.

The filmmaker is in his element stylistically – this film looks exactly as you would expect – and so in command of the technical visual flourishes, like switching from black and white to colour, switching from live-action to animation, moving walls during a scene to make it clear it’s a set and freezing busy action shots to make them appear like a very cool tableau. I loved the classic Anderson elements, like the costume and production design, the onscreen illustrations and chapter headings, and the snappy way the film was edited, often to comedic effect. Alexandre Desplat‘s jaunty score worked perfectly and really added to the silly, whimsical nature of the stories.

There is a ridiculously huge cast list in this and so many are returning Anderson players, such as Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, and Owen Wilson (loved his travel segment), besides those already mentioned. It speaks volumes how many huge actors he has assembled for this, with some of them just simply popping up for brief appearances, like Willem Dafoe, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan and Jason Schwartzman. My favourite performers were Wright, channelling James Baldwin; McDormand, I love her straight-talking nature, and Chalamet, who was a lot of fun.

Although the film was a bit too lightweight and bonkers for my tastes, I can’t deny that The French Dispatch was still a delightful watch.

In cinemas from Friday 22nd October

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Also, make sure you check out The French Dispatch exhibition in London!

Motherless Brooklyn: Film Review

Motherless Brooklyn is clearly a passion project for Edward Norton – not only does he star in almost every scene, but he also directed and produced the film and wrote the screenplay, adapted from Jonathan Lethem’s novel, which he has been trying to bring to the big screen for almost 20 years. Although his performance is tremendous, the film itself has serious issues with length, pacing and narrative.

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Isle of Dogs: Film Review

I’m pretty late to the Wes Anderson fan club, only joining it after The Grand Budapest Hotel (and then watching his older work), so I was fairly excited about his stop-motion animation Isle of Dogs, and I must admit, I liked it but I wasn’t blown away by it.

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Will Smith, Helen Mirren and Naomie Harris at the Collateral Beauty premiere: Pics and gossip

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Collateral Beauty has been slated by critics but that didn’t stop the film’s cast and crew – including Will Smith, Helen Mirren, Naomie Harris and Edward Norton – from promoting the movie wholeheartedly at the London premiere this week.

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My Top 10 Movies of 2015

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Looking back over the past year, there have been some pretty damn good films. But I still had trouble picking my top ten – finding the first six was easy, but the remaining four were not as convincing. So many films I liked at the time, but over the passing months have left little impression. I finally managed to bring you my annual list, which is presented in no particular order.

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Awards reaction: Boyhood snub and other worthy winners

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Last night’s Oscars ended a very long season of film awards and so, with this in mind, I decided to look back over the big winners/losers of this year’s award season and air my grievances.

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Top Films for January

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The top ten movies to see this month are:

Birdman

Michael Keaton stars as Riggan, a washed-up actor who quit a popular action hero franchise and is now trying to prove himself as a legitimate talent by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. This comedy has a unique filming style so it looks like it was all shot in one take. Great support cast including Edward Norton and Emma Stone who need awards for their roles! I have already seen and you can check my review here. Released: 1st January

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Birdman: Film Review

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This is doing so well at the awards nominations stages, so clearly I had to check it out and the actors involved definitely deserve their mentions – their performances are brilliant here.

Michael Keaton stars as Riggan, a washed-up actor who quit a popular action hero franchise (Birdman) and is now trying to prove himself as a legitimate talent by writing, directing and starring in a Broadway play. We follow the trials and tribulations of staging a play – from the high-maintenance lead actor (Edward Norton), his girlfriend trying to make it big (Naomi Watts), the lawyer/producer trying to keep the production afloat (Zach Galifianakis) and out-of-rehab daughter who is acting as an assistant (Emma Stone).

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The Bourne Legacy: Review

I have FINALLY got round to seeing this and I have to say, it is very good. Jeremy Renner was a perfect cast for Aaron Cross, an agent in the Department of Defence black ops program, Operation Outcome. This film runs parallel to the events of The Bourne Ultimatum and it reveals that there were more projects similarly to Blackbriar and Treadstone.

We first meet Aaron on a survival expedition in Alaska. He is an Outcome operative and he must have a blue pill and a green pill a day to maintain his psychical and mental strength. After Pamela Landy releases Treadstone documents, Eric Byer (Edward Norton), who oversees the CIA’s secret ops, decides to shut down similar projects before they get found out. That means killing off every operative and every scientist involved in Outcome.

Aaron manages to escape the bombing which was supposed to kill him. One scientist, Marta (Rachel Weisz) also escapes her lab when one of her colleagues goes on a shooting rampage. The pair join forces and go on the run from the CIA, who want to clear up their mess (much like the plot of Bourne trilogy). They head to Manila, where the pills are made, in a hope to give Cross a permanent alternative. Like the previous films, they’ve always got police or assigned assets on their tail.

The plot is pretty similar to the Bourne trilogy in that the CIA have made dodgy projects and now they have to cover them up by any means necessary. So if you like the plot, action and effects of the previous films, you will like this. Obviously, having a different main character has a huge impact. It does feel weird that Matt Damon is not in the movie at all, not even in the old footage used to place events in this film. But then again, this film isn’t about Bourne and I think Damon would steal the limelight from Jeremy Renner.

The character change does not deflect from this at all because the premise of the plot is Bourne’s impact on other CIA projects and you soon forget that you are watching a Bourne film without Bourne in it. Once the new character and basic plot has been established, it turns into familiar territory with an agent on the run with a female companion. This time, Marta is involved with Outcome as well and can actually help Cross. Rachel Weisz was a good choice but I thought her accent was inconsistent.

I love the Bourne trilogy so I was pleased with this. It keeps the same style so the only reason people will have for not liking this is that it stars Jeremy Renner. I reckon there will be a sequel as well because things weren’t completely resolved.