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film review

Meryl Streep stars in Steven Soderbergh's The Laundromat.The Canadian Press

  • The Laundromat
  • Directed by Steven Soderbergh
  • Written by Scott Z. Burns
  • Starring Gary Oldman, Antonio Banderas and Meryl Streep
  • Classification R
  • 96 minutes

Rating:

2.5 out of 4 stars

God bless Steven Soderbergh, patron saint of upended expectations. When word came last year that the prolific director was making a movie focusing on the Panama Papers financial scandal, it seemed like Soderbergh was returning to the territory of Traffic or Contagion – globe-spanning thrillers that distill huge events into intense, granular dramas. Instead, The Laundromat is more like the raised-eyebrow comedy of The Informant!, but with Meryl Streep subbed in for Matt Damon.

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In 96 zippy minutes, Soderbergh presents a series of five vignettes underlining humanity’s subservience to greed, each segment introduced by the two lawyers at the top of the scheme (played with unctuous glee by Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman, the latter equipped with a Hogan’s Heroes-y German accent). Some of the segments work – especially one involving an African business titan (Nonso Anozie) who decides to teach his daughter an expensive family lesson – and some are too thin, notably the one focusing on Streep’s character, a strong-willed widow who becomes an amateur sleuth after becoming the victim of insurance fraud. (Maybe there is a downside to that brisk 96-minute run-time after all.)

Most egregiously, there is one troubling bit toward the end where, I think, Soderbergh and screenwriter Scott Z. Burns attempt to dissect the notion of artifice – be it financial or narrative – but comes off as hokey at best, culturally tone-deaf at worst. If money makes the world go 'round, as Oldman and Banderas’s characters emphasize over and over again, then The Laundromat deserves at least some of your hard-laundered dollars. Just keep some bearer bonds stashed away for Soderbergh’s next experiment.

The Laundromat opens Oct. 4 at the TIFF Lightbox in Toronto, Oct. 11 in Edmonton and Vancouver and Oct. 18 on Netflix.

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