The French Dispatch, Wes Anderson’s love letter to The New Yorker, is, as you might expect, a charming way to pass a couple of hours – but not as funny or as tight as we might like, and certainly a disappointment in the light of his last two films, The Grand Budapest Hotel and Isle of Dogs (although, in fairness, reaching those heights even twice, let alone a third time consecutively, would be a big ask for anybody). Still, despite The French Dispatch‘s pleasures, some gorgeous imagery and a terrific, star-packed cast, we’re left asking what it’s all about, really – is it more than a vaguely diverting trifle based on Anderson’s favourite publication? And why can’t an ode to an icon of American sophistication be set in America?
An enchanting moment in an enchanting film. Timothée Chalamet´s Gatsby Welles (note the names) has been dumped by his girlfriend Ashley Enright ( a delicious Elle Fanning). He walks around New York: ‘I need a drink. I need a cigarette. I need a Berlin ballad’. He goes to the Carlyle to get the drink and listen to a lounge piano tinkling out part of the ‘Great American Songbook’: ´They Say Falling in Love is Wonderful´segueways into ‘Gigi’. Gatsby thinks of Out of the Past, Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer. He picks up a hooker to impersonate Ashley at his mother´s do. Luckily he comes to his senses eventually and ends up with Chan Tyrrel, played by Selena Gomez exuding sex, charisma, know-how and can-do. She´ll have him kissing like a pro by the time Fall´s finished. People will probably object to what I like most in this one: impossibly beautiful people in impossibly glamorous settings moaning about loving the wrong person, or being attracted to the wrong people because they are so glamorous and rich, all the while playing or listening to beautiful beautiful music whilst drinking martinis and feeling sad. It´s´s all utterly delicious and I´m sad I´ve not been able to see it in a better copy
José has been brushing up, recently rewatching the 1933, 1959 and 1994 adaptations of Louisa May Alcott’s novel. Mike has neither seen any adaptations nor read the book, coming to the story entirely fresh. And so we get to grips with Greta Gerwig’s wonderful, open-hearted, energetic version of Little Women.
José finds much to contrast between the versions, picking up in particular on the unusual dimensionality given to the male supporting characters here, whose roles have previously been thankless. Timothée Chalamet and Chris Cooper particularly impress, the former capturing Laurie’s playful, generous spirit; the latter touchingly evoking Mr. Laurence’s grief. Less successful is Meryl Streep’s Aunt March, who slightly too mechanically reaches for the laughs for which she’s designed.
The girls, though, are a triumph of energetic wildness, ambitions and realism. The scenes they share in their childhood home are well observed, wisely mixing all-American sentimentality you might expect with a disarming sororal combativeness you might not. If there’s a bum note amongst them it’s Emma Watson as Meg, who Mike argues never truly embodies the roles she plays, but Saoirse Ronan is miraculously transparent as Jo, and Florence Pugh gives Jo a burning, vital sense of frustration and fury at always being second best to her sisters. Their relationships make the film the success it is, and, Mike suggests, even when the film begins to wrap their stories up in some fairly convenient ways, so fond are we of them that it’s hard not to be swept along.
Greta Gerwig has achieved magical things with Little Women, and you miss it at your peril.
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