Review: The Laundromat

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Make no mistake, The Laundromat is perhaps this year’s wackiest movie, complete with award-winner Gary Oldman doing a bad German accent and Meryl Streep disguising herself as a Panamanian woman. It consistently breaks the fourth wall and dips into different genres, all while bursting with vibrant character and a wealth of colours. To say it is a good movie is off the mark, but to describe it as completely bonkers does it justice.

The angle of the Laundromat is different from the two other movies based around the Panama papers leak, with this story supposedly being told by the two lawyers responsible for the crimes, Mossack and Fonesca. Oldman and Antonio Banderas are fine as the two lawyers, clearly enjoying their hammy roles. Any conversation between the two is a delight, especially during the opening sequence, where they attempt to give the audience an understanding of what exactly they had done. What follows is a half-linear, half-episodic narrative that attempts to show both the relative good and bad aspects of the lawyers’ story. However, only one of these two halves is worth watching.

The vibrant transitions and bold colour schemes were far more suited to the episodic portions of the film and as a whole, Meryl Streep’s sombre story felt extremely disconnected from the fun and eye-popping segments of the episodes. Narratively, it doesn’t make sense to have two concepts in the same movie. Maybe if Meryl Streep had exclusively told her side, this film would have been different, but instead, she is awkwardly stuck between her point of view and the view of Mossack and Fonesca. This is another problem, the film tries to place two different opinions of the event into one story. Whilst we are encouraged to dislike Oldman and Banderas by Meryl Streep’s Ellen Martin, we are also taught to feel sorry for them for being the perhaps exploited intermediaries. This dynamic is really the central flaw in the movie and it clashes an innumerable number of times.

That said, there’s still plenty to enjoy here, whether it be smart dialogue: “Tax evasion is illegal. But tax avoidance….” or even Steven Soderbergh’s vibrant cinematography. It is very comparable to a movie like ‘The Big Short’, which similarly dealt with a real-life topic through a comedic lens. However, Adam McKay (director of The Big Short) executed his narrative with a lot more confidence. The Laundromat feels very confused at times, but not just with its story. Every so often, you will notice that the tone doesn’t necessarily match the seriousness or casualness of what is going on around it. This is part of a much wider problem, as the movie struggles to decide whether it is full comedy or something else. There are dark moments, thrilling moments and even upsetting moments which all underpin an upbeat film.

Like a lawyer denying any wrongdoing, The Laundromat isn’t sure about what it wants to tell us. It isn’t the best movie in the world, and it’s not the best movie on Netflix either, but The Laundromat is still a worthwhile two hours of your time. Just make sure to close down your bank account in the British Virgin Islands first.

Images courtesy of Netflix