Wes Anderson’s distinctly colorful filmmaking makes an ambitious return to theatres with the release of The French Dispatch. Originally set for release in July of 2020, the film was postponed indefinitely due to coronavirus complications, keeping eager Wes Anderson fans on their toes. One year later, the film makes its long-awaited debut. Boasting the whimsical fast-paced storytelling and rich visual aesthetic of Anderson’s previously celebrated films such as Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel, The French Dispatch has the potential to become another Wes Anderson classic.
Set in a fictional French town, The French Dispatch tells the story of an American journalism outpost publishing its final travel-oriented issue. The star-studded cast that is semi-consistent throughout Wes Anderson’s films, including Bill Murray and Owen Wilson, is joined by a seemingly endless array of other recognizable names such as Timothée Chalamet and Christoph Waltz. The trailer alone speeds through various visual styles, plotlines, subplots, and complicated relationships that are hard to follow. This is to be expected of Wes Anderson’s films, as his stories move quickly by nature, but it slightly worries me. I am curious to experience how Anderson weaves together the talents with the storyline but I fear that the busy feel could deteriorate or drown out its emotional depth.
Even if the story of The French Dispatch becomes muddled and messy, the film is guaranteed to be a visual feast. About a dozen rewatches of Fantastic Mr. Fox, with its earthy warm tones that are comfortingly autumnal, have solidified my trust in his mastery of visual beauty. Wes Anderson’s signature style is defined by symmetry in every shot and childlike pastel hues that evoke a refined, nostalgic feeling, untouched by the dirtiness and complications of the real world. Every shot from his film Moonrise Kingdom feels torn from the pages of a children’s book. For his more mature films, like The Darjeeling Limited, the childlike innocence is balanced by deadpan humor and ironic violence, creating an entertaining juxtaposition. The French Dispatch seems perfectly capable of spinning all of Anderson’s favorite elements into one, building a world overflowing with picture-book nostalgia and colorful characters. From a cinematographic standpoint, it will not disappoint.
Addicted to the nostalgia and satisfying symmetry of his films, I don’t believe I can truly be let down by Wes Anderson. But, after the long wait, I pray The French Dispatch isn’t trying to accomplish too much in one go. Will The French Dispatch become overwhelmed and oversaturated by its elements, unable to fulfill the artistic prophecy it set for itself?