The Laundromat (2019)

Directed by Steven Soderbergh

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I don’t know, I liked The Laundromat.  It’s hard to know what the overall consensus is on a movie, but from what I’ve been hearing people are quite disappointed with this movie. Maybe it’s because it does feel stylistically like a copy of The Big Short or Vice or simply that this being a Steven Soderbergh movie with Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and a bunch of others they expected much more.

But Soderbergh has made strange, experimental movies his entire career, and if anything I think the risks he takes here, including ones that might not work so well, are kind of romantic.  Like with Richard Linklater making experimental movies Tape and Waking Life the same year, The Laundromat is the sign of a director still playing around in the toolbox.

It’s a story about the Panama Papers, told through many different characters and vignettes.  The Meryl Streep scenes, I think, work the best and are grounded with some degree of heart and realism.  Other moments are particularly heightened, including a chapter on “bribery,” and then the connect narration and monologues by Oldman and Banderas feel a little too broad.

But at any rate I found parts of the film quite moving (mostly the work of Meryl Streep), other parts hilarious and biting (when one character successfully bribes his daughter not to reveal to her mother the father’s affair), and then other moments bewildering (Meryl Streep playing a second, rather unusual character).  Then it all ends it a moment of the utmost sincerity which I’m not sure will quite play so well, even if I agree with the sentiments being expressed.

So while the film is certainly scattered and experimental, it still shows a director who knows what the hell he’s doing.  From camera placement to dialogue to the escalation of tension, it’s all there.  None of this feels rote or predictable, it’s just quite messy.  In my case I prefer messy to stiff.

And yet, it is a bit strange that the film takes this topic very seriously, about billionaires and tax evasion and off shore accounts, but it’s told through moments of satire and broad comedy before coming to a more sobering conclusion.  I don’t think I learned all that much about the topic at hand other than who’s good and who’s bad, but even that’s clear from the opening shot of the film.  The emotion of the story is certainly conveyed, with the rich versus the meek, but the details which the film works so hard to convey, still escape me.  And for a film that tries to be so detail oriented, using Adam McKay’s techniques from The Big Short, I can see how in that way it may have missed the mark.

Up Next: Long Shot (2019), The Front Runner (2018), Zombieland: Double Tap (2019)

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