My connection with Steven Soderbergh films has grown exponentially since I started Berkreviews. His movies on the surface seem significantly different from one to another, but the underlying surface shares much in common. His second film from 2019, The Laundromat, certainly exemplifies this. For me, the choices Soderbergh makes in this film work, and they not only sucked me into the story but kept me watching with a level of frustration that I’m sure he was going for.
The film is framed with Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) breaking down the fraudulent insurance system that plagues Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) after a tragic accident. Mossack and Fonseca are talking directly to the audience and yet are also integrated into the plot – which makes for some interesting choices that could definitely send some viewers running for the remote. However, I enjoyed this quirky The Big Short (2015) style narrative dealing with corruption of the capitalist system that Soderbergh loves attacking.
I’m not sure if you know this, but Oldman, Banderas, and Streep…all great actors. The level of talent behind the characters only makes this film more entertaining than the unique style already offers. Oldman goes a bit big with his German accent and performance, but it works really well in this story. Other smaller roles go to some veteran actors I’d not seen in a while, including Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, and Sharon Stone, which are also enjoyable.
I suppose one aspect of the film that may not sit well with some viewers is the mixed tone of comedy and sincere criticism of a system that seems to reward the rich and corrupt while screwing over the average working Joe. However, I have a twisted sense of humor, and my brain often goes to humor to try and cope with situations that greatly upset me. Thus, I found the humor intertwined with the awful situations that play out over the film to work very well. I would laugh derisively while still feeling disgusted.
The Laundromat won’t work for everyone, but I enjoyed the experience. I am a fan of the movie, the cast, and the director here, and I’ve enjoyed the sarcastic tongue-in-cheek humor in both The Big Short and partially in Vice (2018). I watched this in true Netflix form on three different screens over the course of several hours as life kept interrupting my screening. Still, I was always able to hop in and fall right back into the tone, and the movie earned the Not Quite Golden, Ponyboy rating.