‘The French Dispatch’ reviews: Does ‘charming’ and ‘delightful’ film top Wes Anderson’s other celebrated works?

Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” the seven-time Oscar nominee’s 10th film as director, will finally open wide after almost a year and a half of delays due to the coronavirus pandemic. An homage to literary journalism in the vein of the New Yorker magazine, “The French Dispatch” unfolds in three sections, with an obituary, travel narrative, and other short sketches to boot. Anderson’s peerless cast, featuring a number of Anderson regulars, includes Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Benicio Del Toro, Léa Seydoux, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, Timothée Chalamet, Jeffrey Wright, Owen Wilson, and many, many, many others.

“The French Dispatch” is receiving strong notices from critics. It currently has a Metacritic score of 75 based on 38 reviews as of this writing, which indicates “generally favorable reviews.” On Rotten Tomatoes, it currently has a 79% fresh score based on 94 reviews, with the consensus calling the film a “loving ode to the spirit of journalism” that boasts Anderson’s “meticulously arranged aesthetic.”

SEE ‘The French Dispatch’ trailer: Wes Anderson’s timely ode to journalism assembles perhaps his starriest cast yet [WATCH]

Many of the reviews highlight Anderson’s signature visual style. Perhaps more than any of his past films, “The French Dispatch” features an “endearing and liberated explosion of Andersonian aesthetics” and jumps off the screen “ferociously detailed.” Of the large ensemble, many of the reviewers spotlight Wright’s “convincing” turn as a James Baldwin-esque character as well as the “meme-worthy” Chalamet. Others also credit Anderson’s “zippy screenplay,” plus the “delicately thoughtful” score by Oscar winner Alexandre Desplat. Overall, the film is a “first-class pastiche.”

Anderson’s filmography has netted 15 Oscar nominations, winning four for “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” “The French Dispatch” looks likely to boost his tally, at the very least in the craft categories. According to our current combined odds, the film is a likely Oscar nominee for Production Design and seems competitive for Original Screenplay, Cinematography, and Costume Design. Its star-studded cast sits just two slots outside our top five contenders for a SAG Awards film ensemble nomination, too, in seventh place.

SEE Timothée Chalamet’s 15 best movie performances ranked, including ‘Call Me By Your Name,’ ‘Dune,’ ‘The French Dispatch’

See excerpts from some of the critics’ reviews below, and join the discussion on “The French Dispatch” and more with your fellow movie fans and industry insiders in our forums.

Eric Kohn (IndieWire): “This charming sketchbook of stories about American expatriates in France delivers a welcome salute to storytelling as a way to make sense of the world. A freewheeling three-part salute to old-school journalism in general and The New Yorker in particular, the movie works in fits and starts, swapping narrative cohesion for charming small doses of wit and wonder about odd people and places worth your time.”

Ann Hornaday (Washington Post): “‘The French Dispatch’ is undeniably delightful to look at – the physical choreography possesses the grace and wit of a densely layered tableau vivant – and, even within the crisp, regimented acting style Anderson favors, a few genuine performances manage to take hold… For the most part, though, ‘The French Dispatch’ keeps things on an attractive but shallow surface, with Anderson tossing out inside references like so many candied chestnuts in self-conscious and digressive vignettes.”

Peter Debruge (Variety): “‘The French Dispatch’ feels less safe than Anderson’s earlier work, and that’s a good thing… the unconventional project succeeds in delivering that very particular hodgepodge pleasure of reading a well-curated issue from cover to cover… it’s hard to imagine another director who has put this level of effort into crafting a comedy, where every costume, prop and casting choice has been made with such a reverential sense of absurdity.”

Dana Stevens (Slate): “All three of the magazine features-turned-minifilms deal with potentially heavy subject matter: incarceration and mental illness; social unrest and compromised journalistic integrity; racism, homophobia, and organized crime. Yet Anderson’s touch remains light, sometimes maddeningly so… ‘The French Dispatch’ is a movie made with such deliberate, patient skill, and such brio, that its meandering structure and oddly low emotional temperature come off as intentional choices rather than errors of artistic judgment.”

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