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The Laundromat

A widow (Meryl Streep) investigates insurance fraud and uncovers two lawyers (Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas) in Panama exploiting the world’s financial system in the latest film from Academy Award-winning filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. 

"Benicio Del Toro in Traffic, Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich, Michael Douglas in Behind the Candelabra–Steven Soderbergh has directed a great many stars to career peaks and the statuettes that follow. While Meryl Streep is probably the last person in need of help with such things, her first collaboration with the shape-shifting pioneer of American independent cinema can’t help but stand out amongst her illustrious career. A new entry into the financial satire sub-genre of Soderbergh’s filmmaking (a list including The Informant!, High Flying Bird, etc.), his new movie The Laundromat is an air-tight, tumultuous cinematic infographic about our rotten-to-the-core financial systems and, in particular, the 2016 Mossack and Fonseca leak, when millions of the Panamanian law firm’s files were anonymously leaked to the press.

A quick overview would be sufficient to suggest that this is Soderbergh’s answer to The Big Short. Filmmakers have recently woken up to the idea that solemnity is the enemy when dealing with topics of this density: Adam McKay had Margo Robbie explain sub-prime mortgages in a bathtub whereas Soderbergh–with better tact it should be said–has Gary Oldman (speaking in sharp Herzogian consonants) and Antonio Banderas guide us through the particulars. The duo play sequin tuxedo-wearing caricatures of Jürgen Mossack and Ramón Fonseca who show up throughout the film like Gonzo and Rizzo did in The Muppet’s Christmas Carol. Soderbergh has them introduced in a bravado opening long-take during which they explain the evolution of money by trying to give a dollar to a caveman. They get to say lines like “credit is the future tense in the language of money” and “time is just an illusion.” You get the gist.

The film takes aim at many nations and individuals but notably leaves the good old U.S.A. until last, in particular, the tax haven in Delaware, a move that allows Soderbergh to make one perfectly executed meta gag that, for obvious reasons, need not be spoken of. Without preaching too much, the filmmaker seems keen to make the viewer more aware of their own complicity. In a way it makes The Laundromat an interesting b-side to High Flying Bird earlier this year–a film in which the director took a fascinating look at the more aspirational side of the money racket and how it is still possible for those getting rinsed from the top to take back some modicum of control. Ellen Martin, unfortunately, is not in the NBA and neither are the majority of us, but the finale of Steven Soderbergh’s latest–a cinematic foot through the saloon–suggests that he believes that all hope is not yet lost." - The Film Stage

Directed by: 
Steven Soderbergh
Running Time: 
96m
Country(ies): 
USA
Year: 
2019
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Gary Oldman, Meryl Streep, Antonio Banderas
Screenplay by: 
Scott Z. Burns
Rated: 
14A

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