Pros: A huge number of stars in main and supporting roles; clear explanation of some complex offshore business concepts Cons: Large number of stars distracts from the plot; the creators went a little overboard with the comedic elements and break the fourth wall too often The Laundromat / “Laundromat”
Genre black comedy
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Cast: Meryl Streep (Ellen Martin), Gary Oldman (Jurgen Mossack), Antonio Banderas (Ramon Fonseca), Sharon Stone (Hannah), David Schwimmer (Matthew Quirk), Jeffrey Wright (Malchus Rivin Bonkamper), Matthias Schoenaerts (Maywood), James Cromwell (Joe Martin), Melissa Rausch (Melanie), Robert Patrick (Captain Perry), Rosalind Chao (Gu Kailai), etc.
Anonymous Content Studios, Netflix
Year of release 2019
If you have already forgotten the essence of the Panama Papers scandal, and the speed of “information” is now so high that it is no wonder, let us briefly recall the essence of the matter. In 2015, an anonymous source inside the Panamanian company Mossack Fonseca forwarded a huge volume of financial documents to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung. Journalists obtained data on 214,488 offshore companies for the period from 1977 to 2015. The 2.6 TB archive contained 11.5 million files; it took almost a year for journalists from 115 publications in 80 countries to analyze the entire volume of data received. On April 3, 2016, the results of the investigation were published. The papers contained the names of current and former heads of government from around the world, prime ministers, members of royal families, relatives and children of heads of state. The scandal turned out to be serious. In some places, like in China and Russia, the publication was simply ignored; in others, like in Iceland, the prime minister was forced to resign. The Laundromat tells the story of the Mossack Fonseca scandal in the spirit of The Big Short. With inserts explaining difficult moments, with a slightly outsider’s view, with humor, sometimes quite dark.
The director of The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh, is a multi-shot creator. Film director, producer, screenwriter, cameraman and editor rolled into one. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival for the film Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989), an Oscar for best director for the film Traffic (2000) and two Emmys for best direction and editing for the television film Behind the Candelabr (2013). However, Soderbergh is better known to the general public as the director of the films Ocean’s Eleven (2001), Ocean’s Twelve (2004) and Ocean’s Thirteen (2007). It’s clear that it doesn’t cost him anything to attract a whole galaxy of stars to his new work, especially if a lot of Netflix money is involved. Soderbergh did not disappoint and even overdid it a little.
The Laundromat is simply bursting with stars of the first and second magnitude, many of whom got tiny roles of literally 30 seconds, such as Sharon Stone, honorary Ukrainian Robert Patrick, James Cromwell, Friends star David Schwimmer and The Big Bang Theory starlet. Melissa Rausch. Well, we have stars of the first magnitude in the main roles. Meryl Streep plays the fictional character Ellen Martin, who is trying to understand the world of offshore business after the tragic death of her husband, while Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas play the roles of the very real Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca, the owners of that same Mossack Fonseca. Mossack and Fonseca also play the role of narrators, explaining to viewers the principles of their company and the nuances of creating offshore companies.
However, Steven Soderbergh clearly went too far with the number of episodes with narrators and their staging. If in The Big Short there were only four such inserts, with Margot Robbie, Anthony Bourdain, Richard Thaler and Selena Gomez, then in The Laundromat there are almost a dozen of them. Moreover, they are designed so brightly that it breaks the narrative sequence of the film.
In addition, the number of stars also plays a bad joke on The Laundromat. At a certain point in the film, you catch yourself thinking that you are not waiting for a further story about the misadventures of the characters who suffered from the actions of offshore companies, but for which of the stars will appear in the frame next. In the second part of the film you will be scratching your head over who starred in the role of one minor, but very important character for this story. His secret will be revealed only before the final credits.
Another difference between The Laundromat and The Big Short is that the final part of The Big Short is not a comedy at all, but a rather heavy drama, while The Laundromat switches to a serious tone literally at the last minute of the running time, and even then, speech pushed by Meryl Streep’s character looks more like leftist propaganda than a serious accusation against the imperfections of the US legal and tax system.
Steven Soderbergh, who served as director, producer, cinematographer and editor on The Laundromat, really wanted to make a new The Big Short, but he overdid it. As a result, his film looks like a black comedy with elements of political satire, but at the same time it weakly grabs the viewer. After watching, you will remember more the stars who managed to appear in the film than the Panama Papers scandal and the people it affected.
A good comedy on a serious topic, which plays a little into comedy