Directed by: #StevenSoderbergh
Written by: #ScottZBurns
Review by: Benjamin Schofield
When I first heard about this film I heard that it was a Soderbergh film that was being produced by Netflix; when I looked it up, the main stories surrounding the film was that it was a festival film that was being produced by Netflix; when I arrived at the screening, a fellow critic asked me “this is by Netflix isn’t it?”. The fact that the primary discourse surrounding the picture is it being a Netflix production says a lot about the film. That being, there’s not a lot to talk about here regarding the film itself.
It’s Soderbergh’s second feature since his so-called retirement six years ago, and it’s about as surprising as Boris Johnson announcing he would be running for prime minister. It’s one of those films that’s based on real events, where sleazy yet charming “money men” narrate a story that describes their wicked deeds, and how they intelligently manipulated the system and made millions. One can’t help but compare it to The Wolf of Wall Street. The main difference between the two is that The Laundromat is three times as long, despite being only 95 minutes. The story meanders so far from the central narrative that it creates full-on oxbow lakes and you’re left asking why we’re watching this and why we should care about any of these characters.
Another difference between this and Scorsese’s film is how it deals with the details of the financial bits. Whereas DiCaprio’s Jordan Belfort tells you that you don’t care about the details and instead gives you a basic overview, Oldman and Banderas as Mossack and Fonseca really try to explain what’s going on. I have to commend the film for this, but it will no doubt alienate a lot of viewers, and whilst I was genuinely interested, I still found myself simultaneously bored and out of my depth.
Soderbergh has a great cast at his disposal, but he seems to take this word disposal rather literally, throwing away the acting talent he has in front of him. Meryl Streep is brilliant, and she plays a likeable protagonist, but the film is more interested in just about everything else, and her story, which really ought to be the central focus of the film, is all but completely abandoned. Antonio Banderas has a captivating screen presence, and works great as the film’s narrator, if not just for his lovely voice. Sharon Stone is in it. David Schwimmer is there for a bit. Gary Oldman is doing an awful “German” accent. The story too is a really interesting one, but the film struggles to see what’s interesting about it. There’s little more frustrating in a film than a great opportunity that’s been thrown away; we have a good director working with a great cast on an interesting story. How did it go so wrong?