Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Movie with Abe: The Laundromat

The Laundromat
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Released September 27, 2019

There are many ways to adapt a true story into a movie. When the subject matter is something serious, there can be a humorous angle from which to tackle it. Yet, in those cases, there are often people who got hurt along the way and suffered as a result, and the mixture of exaggerated comedy and somber drama doesn’t always work. The product of such an effort can seem insensitive and be off-putting, and there’s a degree to which that can still manage to be effective. That’s not always true, however, and sometimes a film simply falters too much.

Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) are law partners in Panama City running a firm that profits considerably from its many shell companies and its manipulation of the global insurance system, who also serve in this cinematic context as narrators who educate the audience on how to launder money and take advantage of others. When a woman (Meryl Streep) loses her husband in an unfortunate boating accident and later learns that she’ll receive nothing as compensation due to the proliferation of one such scheme, she refuses to stop until she uncovers and exposes how this could possibly have happened.

This film is a wild mess, one that is meant mostly to be tongue-in-cheek in its exploration of an unbelievable process that actually happens in the real world. By presenting Oldman and Banderas as eager instructors of crime, this film assumes a playful position that feels tasteless, and, worse still, isn’t all that entertaining. Streep’s storyline, which was invented as a stand-in for the audience, often feels as if it’s taking place in an entirely different film, one that isn’t nearly as gleeful as all the fun that Mossack and Fonseca, real-life figures whose firm sued Netflix for defamation before this film’s release, are having in explaining just how to exploit at every possible level.

There’s no denying that Oldman and Banderas are strong actors, but this is hardly the place for them to be putting their talents to use. Hopefully Banderas’ work here won’t impact his awards chances for a far better performance this year in “Pain and Glory,” and Streep may well earn accolades for this film given her commitment to the part, which is far more likeable than anyone else portrayed here. An ensemble that also includes Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, Melissa Rauch, James Cromwell, and Jeffrey Wright egregiously wastes its talent. This story might have been worthy of a cinematic adaptation, but this effort is a severe and irritating disappointment.


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