Starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer, James Cromwell, Matthias Schoenaerts, Alex Pettyfer, Robert Patrick, Will Forte,
Steven Soderbergh makes any subject or genre interesting. More so than most he can find unusual hooks into stories that most filmmakers wouldn’t be able to transform into compelling cinema. His latest is derived from a novel based on the Panama Papers scandal. Taking cues from “The Big Short,” Soderberg uses actors from his previous collaborations to fill out an all-star cast. It’s not a typical movie nor does it follow a typical structure, wouldn’t be a Soderbergh film if it did. What it does contain is a terrific Meryl Streep performance, wouldn’t be a Meryl Streep movie if it didn’t. Soderberg starts by breaking the 4th wall and finds techniques to keep the audience interested in a complicated scheme that directly relates to everyone watching.
Following the death of Ellen Martin’s husband (Cromwell) on a lake ferry tour, the insurance company the vessel was insured by with turns out to be a fraudulent, shell company. Devastated, desperate, and without hope, Martin (Streep) dedicates herself to tracking down the people responsible. “The meek are screwed,” Chapter 1 informs. Jürgen Mossack (Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Banderas) are the corrupt geniuses behind these schemes of creating all these fake companies and running offshore accounts. We follow different families in different countries connected to the Mossack Company, and most of them don’t even know it.
One of the intentions here is to get the audience riled up, you should be angry at what you are learning.
“The Laundromat” is a hard movie to explain on paper which is why Soderberg deserves much praise for turning this story into something both cohesive and entertaining. While Oldman and Banderas dress like twins and ambivalently explain to the audience how all this works, sometimes by directly looking into the camera. Their manner is quite charming even if their actions are despicable. The two actors are also used inside the story, not just as narrators. The farther the plot advances away from Streep the less interesting it gets. The other connected subplots vary in their execution. Stone and Forte only appear on-screen for the briefest of moments while Wright and Schoenaerts have slightly more to do.
One of the intentions here is to get the audience riled up, you should be angry at what you are learning. “The Laundromat” is a PSA for us to do something if we are unhappy laws that allow average citizens are being taken advantage of. This film has its problems, it’s fragmented and you could leave for certain sections and return for others and still enjoy it in pieces. Streep plays a second role in the film that I won’t spoil, but “Laundromat” isn’t afraid to be experimental or campy. More is certainly more here. Soderberg keeps the running time down and the pace swift.
Soderbergh and Streep turn an informational corruption scandal film into an entertaining romp.