The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch ★★★★

More of an amusement park than a movie, this is Wes Anderson fully unleashed to make his Playtime — a film as preoccupied with its own architecture as it is with intricate storytelling, so labyrinthine and relentlessly busy that it makes The Grand Budapest Hotel look as quaint as a single episode of Only Murders In the Building. As the most narrated of any Anderson film, with a screenplay that must be the size of an encyclopedia, it’s more exhausting than exhilarating.

But it’s a joy to see the great Jeffrey Wright in such a prominent role, speaking with such art and eloquence that he could easily become a giant in the audiobook world.

I have a lot of thoughts about what this is all really about — and I do think it has a meaningful center (it’s all in Chef Nescaffier’s climactic speech) — but for now I’m a bit overwhelmed by the visual busyness of it all, and I just want to see a quiet film about a few interesting characters, one that takes the time to really draw me in and make me care.

There’s something vaguely show-offy about a movie like this so overstuffed with celebrities who only get a line or two; it’s like this Willy Wonka is just so high on his own candy-colored Rolodex that he can’t resist reminding us how many big names will do whatever he asks on a moment’s notice. He’s on a sugar high of Pure Imagination, and it’s impossible to separate the self-indulgence from the genius.

Still, the architecture is truly awe-inspiring, and the “Simone, Naked” episode (currently my favorite stretch of the film) is one of the most surprising and savory short stories in Anderson’s large library.

An Oscar for Tilda’s teeth!

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