What to Expect from Wes Anderson’s ‘The French Dispatch’

Grab your beret and your harpsichord: a new Wes Anderson film is hitting the theaters.
The French Dispatch True Stories And Characters

Welcome to Great Expectations, a recurring series in which we break down the most essential information about an upcoming movie or show. In this edition, we look at what you can expect from Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch.

Wes Anderson is such a beloved filmmaker that when he comes out with a new movie, it’s usually a big event that fans have been giddily anticipating for at least a year. His latest — the first since Isle of Dogs in 2018 — is no different.

The French Dispatch, (a.k.a. The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun), is written, directed, and produced by Anderson. With story help from past writing collaborators Roman Coppola (Moonrise Kingdom), Hugo Guinness (The Grand Budapest Hotel), and Jason Schwartzman (The Darjeeling Limited).

Here’s everything you need to know about the upcoming movie:

The French Dispatch Release Date (and Where to Watch)

Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch has been ready to hit theaters for over a year now. But the COVID-19 pandemic delayed its release multiple times. Following its recent Cannes Film Festival premiere (where our own Luke Hicks reviewed it), The French Dispatch is expected to finally release in US theaters on October 22, 2021, via Searchlight Pictures.

The French Dispatch Cast

When it comes to ensemble casts, Wes Anderson is king (we had to limit him to just two movies on our list of the best ensemble movies ever). And from the looks of it, The French Dispatch might just be his most impressive group yet. The cast includes many people whom Anderson has worked with before. Plus some exciting faces he’ll be directing for the first time.

Wes Anderson Regulars

Most of Wes Anderson’s usual players are back for The French Dispatch. Among his oldest on-screen collaborators are Bill Murray (his ninth Anderson feature), who stars as Arthur Howitzer Jr., the Editor in Chief of the French Dispatch. Owen Wilson (his eighth) is a travel writer for the newspaper. And Jason Schwartzman (his seventh) plays a cartoonist for the titular publication.

Adrien Brody (his fourth Anderson feature) plays an art dealer named Julien Cadazio. Tilda Swinton (her fourth) is a journalist at the French Dispatch. Frances McDormand (her third) is another journalist. Willem Dafoe (his fourth) is a prisoner. Léa Seydoux (her second) is a prison guard. Edward Norton (his fourth) is a kidnapper. And Liev Schreiber (his second) is a talk show host.

Also, there’s Saoirse Ronan (her second Anderson feature), Tony Revolori (his second), Mathieu Amalric (his second), Steve Park (his second), Bob Balaban (his fourth), Fisher Stevens (his third), and Wally Wolodarsky (his fifth). Plus: Anjelica Huston (her fifth) narrates the movie.

New Wes Anderson Players

As if he doesn’t have enough regulars to work with, Wes Anderson keeps adding to his troupe. Newcomers include Timothée Chalamet (Call Me by Your Name), who plays a young revolutionary named Zeffirelli, and Lyna Khoudri (The Specials), who portrays another revolutionary who is also Zeffirelli’s girlfriend. Also, Benicio del Toro (Sicario) plays Moses Rosenthaler, an artist serving a sentence in jail.

Other fresh faces include Elisabeth Moss (Mad Men) as a copy editor for the newspaper, Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) as an art collector, Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) as a food journalist, and Rupert Friend (Homeland) as a drill sergeant.

And rounding out the cast are Alex Lawther (The End of the F***ing World), Lois Smith (True Blood), Griffin Dunne (An American Werewolf in London), Cécile de France (Hereafter), Guillaume Gallienne (Marie Antoinette), Hippolyte Girardot (A Christmas Tale), and Henry Winkler (Happy Days).

The Plot of The French Dispatch

The French Dispatch is an anthology film inspired by The New Yorker, its famed real-life writers and editors, and some of the stories it’s covered. It consists of three vignettes based on vibrant stories from the eponymous fictional 20th-century newspaper. An American-run periodical based in the fictional French town of Ennui-sur-Blasé.

The first installment, titled “The Concrete Masterpiece,” is by J.K.L Berensen (Swinton). It focuses on an eccentric incarcerated painter (Del Toro), who falls in love with his prison guard (Seydoux). The next, “Revisions to a Manifesto,” is by Lucinda Krementz (McDormand). It follows a group of young French revolutionary troublemakers, which includes Chalamet and Khoudri’s characters. And last, we have “The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner,” about an incarcerated food critic (Wright). 

Watch the Trailer

If you were worried that Anderson might have departed from his iconic style, the trailer for The French Dispatch should put your mind at ease. The trailer is chock-full of centered shots, quirky, dead-pan characters, and pastel visuals galore.

Wes Anderson on His Decision to Cast Timothée Chalamet

There’s one particular newcomer to the world of Wes Anderson whom fans have been most intrigued about. What made the filmmaker cast Timothée Chalamet in The French Dispatch? In a GQ cover story about the popular young actor from 2020, the filmmaker gushes:

“I had seen Timmy in ‘Lady Bird’ and ‘Call Me by Your Name, and I never had the inconvenience of ever thinking of anybody else for this role even for a second. I knew he was exactly right, and plus: He speaks French and looks like he might actually have walked right out of an Éric Rohmer movie. Sometime around 1985. A slow train from Paris, a backpack, a beach for ten days in bad weather. He’s not any kind of type — but the New Wave would have had a happy place for him.”

“Timmy” Chalamet on a rainy beach speaking French? Now that’s something I wouldn’t mind seeing.

Aurora Amidon: Aurora Amidon spends her days running the Great Expectations column and trying to convince people that Hostel II is one of the best movies of all time. Read her mostly embarrassing tweets here: @aurora_amidon.