The Laundromat by Steven Soderbergh, is a paradoxical film that happens to be pleasing. It’s not really some psychological kind of mystery but it definitely requires you to think. This is something that Soderbergh has a way of making it fun. This is probably his most lively and unstable film that somehow might be worthwhile.
The film had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival on September 1, 2019 and is scheduled to be theatrically released on September 27, 2019, before digital streaming on October 18, 2019, by Netflix. A 90-minute ride that is both complicated and mind-boggling at the same time. It follows the controversy of Panama Papers, a major scandal during 2015, where those that were rich and in power didn’t just have the upper-hand, but had a completely different system for themselves. Allowing them to rig their finances and cover up what was actually happening.
This seems like an interesting topic to turn into a film, right? The problem comes with how do you tell a story and convince the audience they’re watching a movie of an old Atlantic magazine cover story? As you guessed it, somehow Soderbergh made it work. He created The Laundromat as a subtle drama that’s informative. It’s one of the first films that looks like it belongs on Netflix more than it does on the big screen. Since this movie is a bit of a brainer, it’s easier to watch again, pause, or look back to some small details you might have missed.
The Panama Papers were documents that showed about 200,000 offshore entities, which somehow got leaked to journalist. The anonymous source came from Panamanian law firm of Mossack (world’s fourth biggest provider of offshore corporate financial services. The firm’s founders are played by Gary Oldman (Mossack) and Antonio Banderas (Fonesca). These two narrate the whole film and give us the prelude where they explain the whole concept of money from old to new.
This way of giving information to the audience was excellently executed while still following the format of a film. The Laundromat is carefully structured on what you would call a whistleblower saga. Soderbergh showed us how the news of Panama Papers came to light but he focused more on how it all worked. With major and minor characters brought to life with an unspeakable vibe that screams unbelief and amazement at the same time.
Their stories draw us in one by one. Starting with Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) whose dream vacation takes a wrong turn and leads her down a rabbit hole of shady dealings. She lost her husband on a tour-boat accident and learns she won’t get the insurance that she deserves. All because the business was contracted by an insurance company that was taken over by another company until it was revealed that none of these companies ever existed. She also learned that a condo she was planning on buying has already been bought by some Russian oligarch, this is why she decided to know why she was getting cheated out of all of this.
It then takes the turn into a soap-opera like story when we move on to Charles (Nonso Anozie), a tycoon that is having an affair with his daughter’s college roommate. I bet you guessed that his daughter finds out and bribed her with the “shares” of an entire company. Charles’ fiendish ways seem bad but just turn out to be horrific. Matthias Schoenaerts enters as a salesman of shell fraud and Rosiland Chao as the wealthy mark, set in China gives us a lesson of how terrifying corruption is.
20 years ago, Soderbergh made a wide-canvas ensemble movie entitled “Traffic”, it explores the illegal drug trade from a number of perspectives: users, enforcers, politicians, and traffickers. Their stories are edited together throughout the film, although some of the characters do not meet each other. This shows that not only does Soderbergh have an experience with making eye-opening films, but he has a way of showing that businesses are not controlled by law, but by money alone.
The Laundromat is kind of like this film but with a message that seems timelier. He executes the film into parts with different lessons and have our two narrators telling us extra facts and breaking the fourth wall. It’s really a one of a kind ride that you would expect is ambitious and over the top, but somehow it.