TL;DR – A film with good intentions that nevertheless ends up talking down to its audience rather than empowering them as it is trying to do.
Score – 3 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
I think it is a good description of the world at the moment that a couple of years ago one of the biggest leaks of information that changed how we look at the entire banking sector and we have kind of forgotten about it. The Panama Papers was this huge revelation but it is almost surprising that we have not seen anyone try to encapsulate it in media form before now. Well, today we look at a film that does just that, in a weird, slightly absurdist way.
So to set the scene, we open in on Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) who along with her husband Joe (James Cromwell) is starting the celebrations of their wedding anniversary by taking a boat tour of a local lake. Tragedy strikes when Captain Richard Paris (Robert Patrick) misses a rogue wave and is not able to turn the boat in time causing it to capsize killing Joe and many others. Ellen’s grief is amplified when they find out while the boat tour company thought they were insured, it was all fraud, a fake company, based out of a shell corporation, hidden behind a trust. Leading her down the well of how the wealthy hide their money.
This is actually one of the more important films I have reviewed because the content that it is covering goes to the heart of the current wealth divide in the world and how the rich continue to get richer and the poor continue to get poorer. However, the importance of the film is kind of diluted in how they chose to present it, i.e. the film’s narrative structure. While it is sort of about Ellen’s story, the film is actually presented from the perspective of our two shall we say, villains. The real-life Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) become the narrators of this film in these 4th-wall breaking absurdist sequences that break up the film.
While these slightly farcical interludes are quite comical from the start because the characters are both narrator and key antagonists it creates an odd paradigm throughout the film. It really feels like they wanted to set them up as comic foils hoisted by their own petard, but then they cast Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas whose charisma offsets that. This is combined with a narrative structure that feels more like a series of vignettes that a consistent narrative. While this feels interesting at the start, it has the effect of diluting the narrative through-line throughout the film which limits the call to action at the end of the film.
there are these issues that do hold the film back, but that does not mean that
it is without merit, indeed the opposite is true. This film is beautifully
shot, even in moments of real horror, it always has a sense of composition that
is compelling. While I don’t think it had the same impact as it was going for,
those 4th-wall breaking sequences, especially towards the end, were
really well constructed. Also, and it almost goes without saying, that Meryl
Streep is amazing in here, really capturing the depth of despair of those
caught up in this awful world.
In the end, do we recommend The Laundromat? Well actually, yes we would. While it is not a perfect film by any stretch of the imagination, its heart is in the right place. To add to this, it is good that the film is taking a stab at looking at something I think we had forgotten. Also, I mean, how can I not recommend a film with shotgun-Meryl Streep energy.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Laundromat
Directed by – Steven Soderbergh
Screenplay by – Scott Z. Burns
Based on – Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite by Jake Bernstein
Music by – David Holmes
Cinematography by – Peter Andrews
Edited by – Mary Ann Bernard
Production/Distribution Companies – Anonymous Content, Grey Matter Productions, Topic Studios, Sugar23 & Netflix
Starring – Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, Sharon Stone, David Schwimmer, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright, Will Forte, Chris Parnell, James Cromwell, Melissa Rauch, Larry Wilmore, Robert Patrick, Rosalind Chao, Nikki Amuka-Bird, Nonso Anozie, Amy Pemberton, Cristela Alonzo, Jay Paulson, Charles Halford, Shoshana Bush, Norbert Weisser, Marsha Stephanie Blake & Veronica Osorio
Rating – Australia: MA15+;