A Cobweb Gone Awry
Stars: Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas, David Schwimmer, Matthias Schoenaerts, Jeffrey Wright, James Cromwell, Rosalind Chao and Larry Wilmore
Director: Steven Soderburgh
Scriptwriter: Scott Z. Burns adapted from the book “Secrecy World” and the Panama Papers by Jake Bernstein
Composer: David Holmes
Cinematographer: Peter Andrews
Rating: R for profanity, sexual content and themed material
Running Length: 95 Minutes
“The Laundromat” is not a romance about going to do your laundry and meeting the one and only, no, this film by Steven Soderbergh concerns laundering money and who makes it and who gets hurt in the process. Better takes notes at this film, because you will learn a great deal. There are three stories here. One about collecting on an insurance policy after one’s spouse accidentally dies. The second about infidelity and the third concerning how to do business in another country…their way. Soderbergh has assembled a large cast here and each actor has their moment. The narration is by Gary Oldman (who steals his scenes as Jurgen) and Antonio Banderas (Ramon), two of the people behind fake companies (“shells”) and their banter between stories is almost a film in itself. Rationalization is the name of the game.
Story One concerns the tragedy of a boat on a lake that capsizes because of a large wave and many people die. Remember these headlines from about a year ago in Missouri? The photography here is harrowing and concerns Meryl Streep and James Cromwell. How to collect on an insurance policy that has been traded off from one company to another? It is a circuitous route and quite a paper trail. Story Two has Meryl trying to find the owners of the main company, but they are actually part of a network of hundreds of other companies. Like a cobweb gone awry. In this story, a young woman sees infidelity for the first time and doesn’t know what to do when it concerns family and stock shares…then there is Story Three set in the Orient where business is done in a different way than other countries and there are prices to pay for everything you do. The end of the film is a summary of being aware of your finances, where they are, who has access to them, and you see the need for pen and paper?
Each story has humor and pathos in it, while letting you see how greed can encompass a life, while the hapless suffer. Meryl Streep’s Ellen seems gullible, at first, but she is a quick learner, and with an innocent gaze, too. Gary Oldman as Jurgen offers humor with his comments on life and is hard to recognize. Others who stand out are Rosalind Chao as Gu, who is a smooth hostess with a purpose. Jeffrey Wright is Boncamper, who lives in the Caribbean, but always looks over his shoulder and David Schwimmer is Matthew, who bought the best insurance he could find, and now has nowhere to go.
Looking at the three situations present in “The Laundromat,” you can pick out something that pertains to you or your family or friends or neighbors. It is chilling to come to the realization that an insurance policy is nothing more than a piece of paper and your premiums are going to anywhere but helping you. Through the story and actions of the cast, you can see actions that were thought to be rational and cost-effective were really irrational and costly.
Copyright 2019 Marie Asner