Based on the Panama Papers scandal, it tells the tale of the money-laundering and tax-evading schemes of the powerful and rich. With a lot of direct address, there is almost an essay-type feel to this bonkers caper, Oldman and Bandares play the two scandalous heads of Mossack Fonseca – the company behind it all.
Although some of the film seems very surface layer, especially in terms of the over-explanations. It soon ties together a story with further depth than is originally perceived or shown, all in a neat self-knowing way that may confuse you at first, but becomes very clear as it goes on. Where as it may seem thin, there is so much happening that the intrigue of looking back and thinking about all the minute developments proves it is otherwise. It’s actually packed full detail and nuance which most clearly shines through Soderbergh’s careful direction and cinematography.
Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep), a calm-loving woman begins an amateur investigation into an insurance company, Mossack Fonseca. Ellen is sent on this trial after a tragic incident that caused the deaths of over twenty one people. She begins her own mission, which eventually leads to crossing paths with multiple insurance people whose scandals await. It eventually leads to the exposure of Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonesca (Antonio Bandares).
The Laundromat is hilarious in all its quirky ways, but it’s actually serious at its core with vivid intent is to expose the criminal goings on in the insurance world. It’s some-what of a cry to create knowledge of these very common fraudulent techniques that are still used to this day. Streep’s Ellen is clearly the centrepiece to Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns’ message, we are able to relate to her, feel for her and most importantly route for her.
The best element of the film is Streep and Soderbergh. Meryl Streep delivers a mild-mannered inner performance, seemingly innocent and some-what naive, Ellen is able to subtly investigate those who have wronged. Streep is the core of the film, without her Oldman and Bandares’ fairly ridiculous strands, I fear, would wear thin. Streep delivers moments of heart, emotion and humour, most significantly a scene of attack. Soderbergh’s vision is ram-packed, full of colour and importantly controlled – although sometimes it may seem out-of-hand, but if you look carefully at the progression of the narrative (that nicely ticks along), also with the visuals and the use of perspectives, you end up sucked into that world. Some angles have that same feeling of unease seen in Soderbergh’s 2017 film, Unsane, his cinematography skills are incredible and place you within the scene.
The experimental use of lenses and camera angles struck me, that element of experimentation really helped propel the some-what wacky or mundane moments along. Oldman’s performance is quirky, sometimes really a little false, but never steps into the realms of not doing a good performance. Bandares, who plays Oldman’s partner is better, perhaps its because of Oldman’s slippery German accent? Bandares’ performance is more nuanced and a little less flashy, there is time to care at least a little. Although its not Pain and Glory levels of Oscar-worthy excellence, he’s still pretty great.
The Laundromat is strange, it’s ram-packed film full of quirks and self-reflexive moments. Meryl Streep is at her best, gently holding up the narrative and filling the film with joyous energy and moments of emotion. Whilst it’s hilarious, the core of the film has a message that is serious in intention.
4/5 Stars ★★★★☆