Full of luminosity and shining lights, Steven Soderbergh’s latest is a non-stop literary thrill from start to end. Coming off The Laundromat with mixed responses, Soderbergh seems to not care at all about conforming to conventions as proved by Let Them All Talk. The title itself leads to that very notion of his creative autonomy being completely his own. Let Them All Talk is a expertly-woven combination of literary scholar and cinematic elegance. Soderbergh, under the pseudonym Peter Andrews, shoots the film with colorful grandeur and a marvelous eye for framing. Each conversation and every movement is captured with absolute thoroughness to its established style, brought on by the film’s first frames.
Beginning in medias res, Alice (Meryl Streep) converses about her upcoming novel and crossing trip to the UK with her literary agent, played by Gemma Chan. Upon being invited on this trip, nephew (Lucas Hedges) finds love with his Aunt’s agent. Additionally, travelling with Alice is two long-lost friends from the past. She invites them with the hopes to repair age-old wounds, some caused by her publishing of a certain book. Her nephew is a liason between the friends as she is constantly working on a new manuscript assigned by her agency. She is extremely busy to say the least.
Brimful of keen, entertaining wit, Deborah Eisenberg’s screenplay is a firecracker. A never-ending joy to spectate, it demands to be engaged wholly. Sumptuous to the eyes, Soderbergh’s style is encompassed by his use of brilliantly contrasting colors; tungsten yellows, warm oranges, and luminous purples. Backing the film’s fantastic visuals, screenplay, and direction is Let Them All Talk‘s cast, stellar right to the end. Streep is blunt and naturally witty, while Hedges brings his go-to Wes Anderson-taught comedic timing. Chan is tremendous, her and Hedges are the standout pairing; their chemistry on-screen is remarkable. Forming the titular friendship group around Streep is Dianne West as Susan and Candice Bergen as Roberta, all of them pair up to be individual figures of intrigue in their differing ways.
Every morning a mystery man walks out of Alice’s room, just as Hedges’ character pops in to have breakfast with his aunt. It’s these subtle nudges that propel the narrative forward. There are many instances of little plots that one by one are unveiled, one is captured by the intrigue that’s formed. Let Them All Talk was an unlikely contender to be one of the best pieces of entertainment this year, but remarkably it is and even days after viewing, one will find it hard to not think of it.
As previously stated, it would seem the endless thrills and captivation of Let Them All Talk is heavily down to Soderbergh’s fascinating stylizations. Precise in framing and composition-wise, nothing is wasted in covering unimportant elements – everything has purpose. The cinematography has a luminance to it, lit with supposedly different fixtures or perhaps a lens filter (like the netting used in The Haunting of Hill House) to form a softness in light. These little cinematographic choices are compelling in their out-of-normal fashion. It’s a rather ingenious way to capture one’s attention.
Let Them All Talk is a brilliantly crafted film that captures one’s full engagement, captivating beyond most films this year. Meryl Streep, Lucas Hedges, and Gemma Chan are strikingly fantastic, delivering the finest of wit in this literary, cinematic hybrid. Ambiguous and ambitious in intentions, it’s both a voyage of discovery for the audience and characters alike.