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The French Dispatch

Wes Anderson • 2021

I wasn't expecting to love this movie as much as I did, but it's my favorite Wes Anderson. It grabbed my head and my heart by the collar and refused to let go.

I thought there was something a little poetic about his turn to animation in Isle of Dogs — the auteur who was so precious about treating his scenes like meticulous storyboards in a fitting medium at last! — but this actually works even better. He is at his most Wes Anderson-y: the set design is immaculate, the scripts are twee and that particular blend of irony-cum-earnestness, the plotting, rather than being sparse, is altogether absent.

A lot of hay has been made about how Aaron Sorkin's ouevre only really works when he's dealing with material that is as pretentious as he is. This is why The West Wing (smart people running the world) and The Social Network (people who think they're smart and running the world) are fun scripts, and the likes of Molly's Game & Studio 60 were not. I think something can be said for Wes Anderson: I (and his actors) will eat up his screenwriting regardless of the setting, but it only feels quasi-revelatory when you can put the words in the mouths of people believably precocious (see The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore).

And what's more precocious than broad and loving caricatures of New Yorker staff writers? This choice, too, is great: what Wes Anderson loses in a sense of narrative propulsion he gains in the power of triptych: each story follows the same quiet little arc of "writer discovering themselves through their subject", and being bookended by the paternal Bill Murray works really well.

I'm rambling: I might need to digest more of the movie to have anything more interesting to say. This is never going to be Wes Anderson's most acclaimed movie but it is the one I loved the most, and I think I will remember it as my favorite even if I will never remember it as the best.

1/16/2022
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Comedy
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