UPDATE: Since I wrote the story below, I’ve heard of numerous walk outs at at least one screening including executives who “really hated it.”
EARLIER: I must say, I am shocked. But people who’ve seen Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch” in Telluride and elsewhere really don’t like it.
At least two reviewers for Rotten Tomatoes — where it’s held onto an 87 — used the word hate, as in hated it.
The movie stars Anderson’s usual repertory of A listers including Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray, and this time, Timothee Chalamet (yes, he’s the It Boy of 2021).
Richard Lawson of Vanity Fair wrote: “Anderson, who lives in Paris, is presumably writing a mash note to his adopted country. But he’s doing it in such a shallow, generalized way that it almost plays as a troll instead.”
The trade reviews are bizarre for their restraint in trying not to clobber Anderson. Todd McCarthy wrote in Deadline: “This is Anderson in full flower, one that only grows in a rarified altitude.” Peter DeBruge in Variety: “Yes, there’s still an ironic distance between such elements and the audience, but “The French Dispatch” feels less safe than Anderson’s earlier work, and that’s a good thing.”
It gets worse. Scott Mantz, who’s always positive about everything, said: “THE FRENCH DISPATCH: It breaks my heart to say this, but I was really disappointed by Wes Anderson’s latest movie. It’s so disjointed, the narrative is hard to follow, the characters are too one-dimensional, and I just didn’t care what was going on”
Another viewer, from Canada, posted: “Damn. I was never confident in The French Dispatch‘s awards chances but damn. I wasn’t expecting flat out hate for it. I only had it in screenplay above the line and I will promptly remove it”
Blogger Scott Menzel wrote: ” I hated The French Dispatch. As a lifelong Wes Anderson fan, I didn’t think I would ever hate one of his films, but here we are.”
OK I mean you rarely see the word ‘hate’ in reviews. Wes Anderson has always made twee movies, but they were so fanciful and witty their sweetness was overcome by a keen intelligence. But this may be why Searchlight has made it so difficult to see in advance after a year and a half of delays. I’m going to keep an open mind, and hope that the naysayers are wrong! (Hoping to see it this week, and will report. The soundtrack is supposed to be terrific, by the way.)
PS Maybe this is why Searchlight chiefs Nancy Utley and Steve Gilula retired so unexpectedly last April. They wanted to go out on a high before the bad news hit.