|The Laundromat is a fast-paced satire of the rich and the financial frauds that they willfully commit. It fits right in line with Adam McKay’s The Big Short. However, director Steven Soderbergh and writer Scott Z. Burns wanted to make it quicker and less impactful. Less impactful is definitely what it is, this is a Meryl Streep and Steven Soderbergh collaboration that is smart, funny, illuminating, debuted on Netflix and yet most people don’t seem to know it exists.||2019 |
Directed by: Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by: Scott Z. Burns
Based on the book by Jake Bernstein
Starring: Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas, and Gary Oldman
The opening scene features Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas. They’re lawyers, rich, fast-talking lawyers, who have found a way to sell their patronizing characters in a very fresh and funny manner. Every five minutes throughout the film, I was waiting to get back to Oldman and Banderas. They’re the through-line, they connect the financial crimes the film exposes to the everyday people like Meryl Streep’s character to the audience who needs to understand what utter nonsense the rich get themselves involved in on a daily basis.
Streep plays Ellen Martin, a kindly but smart and reasonably well-off grandmother who loses her husband in a freak accident in a cruise boat. And seeks the guidance of professionals of what to do next, and how to get the insurance claim. This leads to David Schwimmer in a very brief but brilliant role. He’s the owner of a small business, just trying to make a buck, not trying to hurt anybody, and discovers when it’s too late that you can’t save money on insurance.
The film then flies across cultures dropping in on rich folks and the fraudulent schemes they get their money tied into. One of the main issues with the film is its inability to stay in one place for very long and satisfyingly tie in the various stories together. Streep disappears for a long portion of the film and we’re following people we don’t know and have no reason to care about other than the fact that they’re rich and they are most likely in the process of screwing someone (or many someones) over.
Ultimately, The Laundromat leads to the publishing of the Panama Papers. So it’s an important look at the world’s financial systems benefitting the already rich, but it’s also a zippy, satirical version of a based-on-a-true story. It’s uneven and unimpactful, but it’s also funny and smart. It’s unlikely to have much staying power, another peculiar oddity for a film brought to us by legends of the industry.