A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Reminds viewers of importance of learning about the world through written word, of the way writers and journalists tell interesting stories for their readers. It's a tribute to camaraderie of a newsroom/workplace where people respect and admire one another.
Positive Role Models
Arthur Howitzer Jr. is a loyal, dedicated editor who gives each of his writers individual attention and cares about the stories he's publishing. Each writer believes that they're writing about something important or interesting, whether it's local color, food, human-interest profiles, or youth protests.
Most characters are White with exception of Mexican Jewish prison artist Moses Rosenthaler; Black, gay writer Roebuck Wright, and Asian chef Nescaffier. Women writers are just as important to the publication as male writers.
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Violence & Scariness
An incarcerated person is a double murderer who kills two bartenders. The violent act is heard; visuals are limited to blood splatter. Later it's revealed that the perpetrator decapitated and dismembered the men. Huge shoot-out between police and a kidnapping gang. A group of people is poisoned. A main character dies; his dead body is visible. Police forces throw a presumed criminal out of a plane; others are tortured, threatened. People kidnap a child and keep him tied in a closet. A bicyclist keeps falling down stairs and crashing into places. Rioters are met with tear gas and special forces in riot gear. A prison brawl breaks out; people are killed (violence is stylized).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A couple of sex scenes: One shows two people lying next to each other post-intercourse (bare shoulders, heavy breathing). Another couple is shown before having sex (she's topless, he's shirtless; they kiss). Two other people are shown in bed together, having had sex (off camera). Long scene featuring nonsexual full-frontal nudity of a woman posing as an artist's model. A young man in the tub is shown naked from the side (he covers his genitals).
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Strong language includes "f--k," "c--ksucker," "motherf----r," and insulting terms like "demented," "deranged," "crazy," "insane," "savages," and more. One use of "good God."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults smoke cigarettes throughout. Adults also drink everything from wine and cocktails to hard liquor and even a mouthwash that includes alcohol.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The French Dispatch is a comedy about the staff of a fictional 20th century American newspaper's magazine supplement, which is headquartered in the (also fictional) French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé. The movie features writer-director Wes Anderson's iconic art direction, dark humor, and melancholic themes. Unlike some of Anderson's younger-skewing movies, this film includes full-frontal nudity (nonsexual), a couple of stylized love scenes (partial nudity, but nothing more than kissing is shown), strong language ("f--k," "c--ksucker," "motherf----r," etc.), lots of smoking and drinking, and some scenes of violence (shoot-outs, a prison brawl, and more). A tribute to the camaraderie of the newsroom, it stars a huge ensemble of award-winning actors, some of whom are Anderson regulars (Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Anjelica Huston, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Saoirse Ronan, Willem Dafoe, etc.) and some who are working with him for the first time (Timothée Chalamet, Elisabeth Moss, and more). To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The auteur theory lives on in Anderson's well-performed, intricately staged homage to a time when editors and journalists were believed -- and beloved. While it's not necessary to read the New Yorker archives to enjoy The French Dispatch, it helps to be familiar with Baldwin, Lillian Ross, Mavis Gallant, Joseph Mitchell, Wallace Shawn, and other members of the United States' mid-20th century literati. All of the actors, whether longtime Anderson company members or new additions to his ensemble, seem to be having a grand time, but the standout heavy lifting is done by Wright, McDormand, Chalamet (whose role was reportedly written specifically for him), and Swinton. Léa Seydoux gives a mostly wordless (and nude) performance as Del Toro's prison guard/lover/muse. Wilson, Brody, Murray, and the gang are fun to watch, naturally, but Anderson's films aren't as much about the actors as they are about the director himself.
Here's where Anderson and his crew shine: the intricate set-building and art direction. Every detail in The French Dispatch, from the hilarious "The Kids Are Grumpy" graffiti to the prison-art gallery pieces to the mannered hair and costumes, looks as purposeful and precise as in a stop-action film. Part of that meticulous style, however, is that the emotional core of Anderson's films is secondary to the overall aesthetic. One needn't be a film student to pick out what Anderson's movies look like, but what they make audiences feel is a different story. There's laughter, there's melancholy, there's appreciation of everything from the clever character and place names to the absurdity of Tony Revolori and Del Toro playing the same character at different stages in his adult life. But ultimately, the movie remains emotionally at a distance, and for a story about journalists, that may be appropriate ("journalistic neutrality" is remarked upon at least four or five times), but it's also a bit disappointing. Go for the iconic Anderson touches, stay for a few notable moments and scenes, and recall the great foreign correspondents of the past, but don't expect some grand revelation.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.