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!

Ammonite: Film Review

Ammonite

Ammonite received rave reviews during its film festival circuit last year so I had seriously high expectations for it – but I must admit I was underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Francis Lee‘s second feature stars Kate Winslet as Mary Anning, the real-life self-taught palaeontologist and fossil collector who lived in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. The story is set in the 1840s when her days of famous discoveries are over and she sells the fossils she collects in a shop. Geologist Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), a big fan, visits the area with his wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) and pays Mary to let him join her on her coastal explorations. When he is called away, he asks Mary to look after Charlotte, who is grieving from a personal tragedy, and romance blossoms between the two women.

It goes without saying that the performances in Ammonite are amazing. Winslet and Ronan have multiple Oscar nominations (and a win for Winslet) to prove their talent so I assumed they would turn in impressive performances and they certainly didn’t disappoint. And it should also be noted that Fiona Shaw stands out Mary’s ex Elizabeth Philpot.

However, I didn’t buy their attraction or love for one another. Sure, the explicit sex scenes are passionate, but there is little passion elsewhere. I didn’t believe in their story and I wasn’t invested in it. I had no emotional connection to it and so it never moved me, which is clearly what the film is hoping to achieve. And that’s not the actresses’ fault – the story and the writing is weak and doesn’t earn this romance or make it convincing. Also, the film is very slow, felt longer than it was, is quite quiet as neither of them is particularly talkative and very dim as it’s trying to look candlelit.

My biggest issue with the story will be no surprise as it has already caused controversy already – why take a remarkable historical figure and make her the subject of a fictional lesbian romance? I didn’t know anything about Anning before Ammonite so I’m glad it brought her to my attention but I actually would have preferred to learn more about her, her discoveries and contributions to science and palaeontology in a standard biopic than watch this imagined romance plot. It doesn’t go into much detail about her work and totally glosses over the work of Murchison and Philpot. Lee should have created a fictional character inspired by Anning. This route makes no sense to me.

I had high expectations from Lee because of his work on the powerful and moving God’s Own Country but sadly, Ammonite just didn’t do anything for me, despite its terrific lead performances.

Available for premium rental at home on digital platforms from Friday 26th March

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Ammonite: LFF Film Review

Ammonite

Ammonite received rave reviews following its premiere in Toronto so I had seriously high expectations for it – but I must admit I was underwhelmed by the whole thing.

Francis Lee‘s second feature stars Kate Winslet as Mary Anning, the real-life self-taught palaeontologist and fossil collector who lived in Lyme Regis in Dorset, England. The story is set in the 1840s when her days of famous discoveries are over and she sells the fossils she collects in a shop to get by. Geologist Roderick Murchison (James McArdle), a big fan, visits the area with his wife Charlotte (Saoirse Ronan) and pays Mary to let him join her on her coastal explorations. When he is called away, he asks Mary to look after Charlotte, who is grieving from a personal tragedy, and romance blossoms between the two very different women.

It goes without saying that the performances in Ammonite are amazing. Winslet and Ronan have multiple Oscar nominations (and a win for Winslet) to prove their talent so I assumed they would turn in impressive performances and they certainly didn’t disappoint. And it should also be noted that Fiona Shaw stands out Mary’s ex Elizabeth Philpot.

However, I didn’t buy their attraction or love for one another. Sure, the explicit sex scenes are passionate, but there is little passion elsewhere. I didn’t believe in their story and I wasn’t invested in it. I had no emotional connection to it and so it never moved me, which is clearly what the film is hoping to achieve. And that’s not the actresses’ fault – the story and the writing is weak and doesn’t earn this romance or make it convincing. Also, the film is very slow, felt longer than it was, it’s rather quiet as neither of them are particularly talkative, and also very dim as it’s trying to look candlelit.

My biggest issue with the story will be no surprise as it has already caused controversy already – why take a remarkable historical figure and make her the subject of a fictional lesbian romance? I didn’t know anything about Anning before Ammonite so I’m glad it brought her to my attention but I actually would have preferred to learn more about her, her discoveries, and contributions to science and palaeontology in a standard biopic than watch these imagined romance plot. It doesn’t go into much detail about her work and totally glosses over the work of Murchison and Philpot. Lee should have created a fictional character inspired by Anning. This route makes no sense to me.

I had high expectations from Lee because of his work on the powerful and moving God’s Own Country but sadly, Ammonite just didn’t do anything for me, despite its terrific lead performances.

Seen as part of the London Film Festival. No general release date as yet.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Little Women: Film Review

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott has been adapted for the screen many times, so I wasn’t particularly thrilled when Greta Gerwig announced it as her next project, but I love so many of the cast that I was excited for it anyway – and damn, they really deliver.

[Read more…]

Top Films for December

It’s finally here. We are in the last month of 2019! And we’re set to go out with a bang, judging by the films that are coming up. Here’s a rundown of the releases I’m most excited for this month:

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Mary Queen of Scots: Film Review

The subject matter of Mary Queen of Scots isn’t exactly my bag but I had to see it because I love Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie – and boy did they deliver.

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The Seagull: Film Review

The Seagull is one of Anton Chekhov’s most famous plays and it has been adapted many times, so I feel ashamed to say that I’ve never seen a version of it, on stage or screen, so I couldn’t possibly vouch for how this new take, directed by Michael Mayer and adapted by Stephen Karam, holds up against others.

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Saoirse Ronan didn’t want to make On Chesil Beach an abuse story

In the film adaptation of On Chesil Beach, Saoirse Ronan plays a character who is terrified of consummating her marriage to her new husband Edward (Billy Howle) and the film examines what that means for their disastrous wedding night.

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The technical difficulties of shooting On Chesil Beach at the actual location

Naturally, for a movie called On Chesil Beach, the filmmakers wanted to shoot on the actual Chesil Beach, particularly a long shingle outcrop surrounded by water on all sides, in Dorset. It may have looked cool on screen, but it was practically very difficult.

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On Chesil Beach: Film Review

I am a huge Saoirse Ronan fan so I will check her out in anything, but On Chesil Beach was also appealing to me because I like adaptations of Ian McEwan novels like Atonement and Enduring Love. This certainly isn’t as emotionally gruelling as Atonement, but the leads put in tremendous performances.

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