REVIEW: Despite award caliber cast and crew, ‘The Laundromat’ is a loss

With the closure of movie theaters because of the coronavirus pandemic, I’m taking a look back at more movies from 2019.

What a waste. This film has a talented Academy Award winning director, actors who’ve been nominated or won Oscars, Golden Globes and Emmys, including one of the greatest actresses ever. On top of that, it had a rich, fascinating subject matter. Yet the picture as a whole is a complete mess.

Meryl Streep plays Ellen Martin in “The Laundromat,” a woman who loses her husband during a ride on a lake cruise. Following the accident, Ellen speaks with her financial adviser, but she finds issues with how the insurance is being processed.

With something seeming off, Ellen decides to explore what’s going on, and finds out that the insurance company she’s dealing with is linked to entities listed in the Panama Papers. The notorious documents detailing thousands of offshore financial transactions were leaked in 2016.

I don’t mind movies that take a more unique approach. This can range from characters breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience, to telling the overall story from multiple angles.

However, execution is key, and it simply doesn’t work here. There are times two of the characters are talking directly to the audience trying to describe what’s taking place, but what they’re discussing at times doesn’t come across like it’s connecting with the overall narrative. The picture’s attempts to connect with the audience on a deeper level by way breaking the fourth wall and adding touches of humor, simply don’t resonate.

It’s also noticeable that the movie really doesn’t describe the whole situation all that well. Screenwriter Scott Burns and Director Steven Soderbergh inject humor and certainly take jabs at those responsible for the situation, as well as show those who were hurt by it, but how the whole thing operated isn’t all that well explained.

Courtesy Anonymous Content Entertainment and Netflix.

This is another example where the movie’s approach with not having straightforward storytelling and breaking of the fourth wall somewhat hurt it. A picture with a more procedural approach, like that seen in last year’s “Dark Waters” and “The Report (which Soderbergh produced),” or even the Oscar-winning “Spotlight” from a few years ago would have been welcome.

Soderbergh himself has even taken this approach with “Contagion.” While that movie wasn’t based on a real event, it was very much a procedural, straightforward dramatization. This movie, on the other hand, feels so damn unfocused.

The only thing really carrying this are the performances. In all fairness, Soderbergh is a fantastic actors director who can bring out great portrayals and the picture is of course loaded with talent.

Just for a tally here, “The Laundromat” features Academy Award winners Gary Oldman and Meryl Streep, Oscar nominees Antonio Banderas and Sharon Stone, Golden Globe winner Jeffrey Wright, Emmy nominee David Schwimmer and even legendary character actor Robert Patrick.

The script doesn’t really live up to the level of talent in front of the camera, though, and none of the actors give that memorable of a performance.

A viewer leaves “The Laundromat” with still plenty of questions on the Panama Papers and not that great of a cinematic experience. Considering what was attached to this project and what the result was, this one gets a 1 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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