Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch is a breath of fresh air filled with a charming sense of life and character. Oh, and, like, also every actor you could possibly think of.

The film, basically an anthology of three large stories, is at its heart a love letter to The New Yorker magazine. Anderson transforms the classic and beloved magazine with a fun amalgamation of seemingly disparate stories while also threading his characteristic style and charm throughout. Which is basically just a long-winded way to say that it’s a pretty cool movie that’s not just three separate stories.

The French Dispatch is a newspaper in Ennui, France owned by the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. The movie opens with its deadpan editor, Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), suddenly dying of a heart attack. According to his will, the newspaper is to immediately stop publication following one final farewell issue.

From here, the film essentially becomes an anthology of three stories in this farewell issue, heavily following the format of a traditional New Yorker magazine – all the way down to the art. Like, seriously, the art is basically pulled straight from the New Yorker. The credits even have a collection of cover page art from various French Dispatch issues that are explicitly imitating New Yorker covers, and they are so fun to look at that you force yourself to sit through the credits.

Owen Wilson’s Herbsaint Sazerac opens the farewell issue with a separate short story illustrating the setting of Ennui. Here, the film becomes the issue of the magazine; Wilson speaks directly to the viewer as if they were reading the page itself.

While not a lot really happens in this story, it’s really charming to see a beret-topped Owen Wilson riding through a colorful fictional town while being slighted by pastor boys and his own inattentiveness. The visual quirks of the town, along with Wilson’s performance, create a fun, inviting atmosphere that immediately pulls the viewer into the movie. This genuine-feeling charm is a common thread throughout the film, but the next stories are longer, more personal narratives with more significant dealings.

The first story tells the tale of Moses Rosenthaler (Benicio del Toro), a mentally disturbed inmate that becomes an influential artist due to his obscure nude portraits of a guard named Simone (Leá Seydoux).

If you were writing a scholarly paper on this story, you could spend pages and pages on its exploration of “good art,” and the possibility of an artist to create inside a capitalist society. Rosenthaler is in an ideological cold war with art collector Julien Cadazio (Adrien Brody); the artist attempts to keep his inspiration in the face of Cadazio, a greedy man who only cares about art as a moneymaker. While this is an interesting investigation, the real compelling beauty of this story – and the rest of the movie as a whole – is the genuine humanity of it.

This first installment truly introduces how this film is about giving life: to a person, to a place or to a story. The stories, while mostly black and white like a newspaper’s pages itself, are laced with the color that cannot be captured in words on a page. Yet, the irony of Anderson’s film is that these stories come from a group of people with little personality – an odd adopted family of journalists that talk more about dangling prepositions than I care to think about. And I can’t really say I’m sure what a dangling preposition is.

The best example of that kind of irony comes from the second story, featuring Frances McDormand (!) as journalist Lucinda Krementz and Timothée Chalamet (!!) as revolutionary teenager Zeffirelli. (For those of you who are aware of the age gap between these actors, this next sentence may seem a bit odd or even problematic to you, but let’s just accept it so we can move on with the movie.) They have a relationship and she helps him write his manifesto for the “Chessboard Revolution” – a student protest in the streets.

While you can definitely read this story as a sort of commentary on revolutionary and political discourse, I found that it’s really just another moving story about a person. And I’m not just saying that because Timothée Chalamet is always charming (which he is). I say that because it beautifully and handily delves into Zeffirelli’s humanity as a character: faults and idiosyncrasies and all.

It is here that I’m just gonna say what everyone thinks when they watch Wes Anderson movies: this movie is weird. But in a good way, you know? Probably the biggest critique this movie will get is that, sure, it’s cool and all, but it’s just a movie about The New Yorker. To that, I say: fair enough. Yes, its stakes and story are much smaller than other Anderson endeavors; but that’s where its beauty stems from. Sure, it’s not as personal as  Moonrise Kingdom or hilarious as Grand Budapest Hotel. But it’s still a fun film and much more genuine than many other movies out right now (I’m looking at you, Eternals).

Anyway, back to the story.

The final story follows food journalist Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright) reminisces on a piece he once wrote about a dinner from chef Lt. Nescaffier (Stephen Park) that somehow turns into a hostage situation.

This section’s biggest shortcoming is that its atmosphere doesn’t exude the charming personality that the other stories play with so beautifully through its subjects and settings. The real personality of this section does not stem from the subjects, but from the writer himself.

It’s about how a writer, as an artist, finds passion and inspiration in life's everyday things, and why they care about what they care about. Why do they dedicate all this time to writing about food? About politics? About art?

More metaphorically, is Wes Anderson just talking about himself here? Possibly? Maybe? Probably? Yeah, let’s go with the last one. Probably.

So, why did Wes Anderson make a movie emulating the style and structure of The New Yorker? To be honest, I don’t really know the answer to that question. What I do know is that, here, Anderson has made a lovely movie capturing how stories express humanity and personhood in their own ways. As the film closes, I can’t say that it was as eye-opening or unique as a meal from Lt. Nescaffier. But, I can say that it is a hilarious, fun escape of a story about what Wes Anderson handles best: a family, and the stories and people that make it up.