I was very excited for Netflix’s The Laundromat. I think it’s pretty obvious why I or any film lover would be pumped for this film. We’ve got Meryl Streep starring in a film about scandal and corruption. How could that fail? Well, I really hate to be the bearer of bad news but alas I must. The Laundromat is shockingly jumbled and misguided. The big issue here is that this film isn’t about what you think, it’s not even a real narrative story actually. Instead of giving us a well fleshed out narrative starring Meryl Streep, this turns into a political statement about corruption.
Alright so I want to be very clear right from the start this film’s message is extremely important and really needs to be discussed. Corruption, especially corporate corruption, must be called out and ultimately attacked at the root. The Laundromat is not a bad film because of its strong stance on these issues. No, it’s a bad film because it tries to mesh together an actual story with characters along with 45 minutes of a preachy lesson on corruption.
It’s so strange, I’ve never seen anything quite like this film. It’s literally half a fictional story you think is going somewhere and half a big lesson on corporate and government corruption. The obvious issue here is that because the film is trying to commit to two very different things at once, it ends up committing to nothing. You have to choose one path or the other, you cannot just decide halfway through that you’re going to take a hard left turn and go in a completely different direction; it’s just jarring and confusing.
I love both of these ideas. I love the idea of a plot that has Meryl Streep as this grieving widow being swindled out of her money by corrupt men played by Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman. That is a juicy set up where a lot of interesting things can be done. That is what I thought this film was going to be about but woah was I wrong. On the other hand, I really love the idea of making a film that’s sole purpose is to call out the rampant corruption not only in America but also around the world.
Now I will say that if you want to make a film about such a big issue like that, I’d suggest doing a documentary or something because I think the cinematic style they try to handle it with here just isn’t effective. Both of these plots are great and have lots of potential but let’s be very clear, they are two very different types of films. Those two plots clash hard in terms of tone, story, structure, and….everything.
Is Meryl Streep good? Um, of course she is. She’s always brilliant in every role she assumes, Unfortunately for her, there really isn’t a role for her in this film. I mean yes, in the first half she plays a character but then she’s abandoned because the film goes in a completely opposite direction and turns into a whole different thing entirely. I know why Meryl decided to do this and I really appreciate it because I know she cares about the very serious issues this movie tries to tackle but it’s just messy about it.
Then we have Banderas and Oldman playing the corrupt douchebags which gets old and isn’t very effective because of how they are handled. They basically serve as narrators for most of the film and the cocky arrogant tone they narrate in gets grating. They aren’t real characters, they’re just corrupt bad guys who educate us about corruption the whole film and I hate that sort of hand holding. I think it’s much more effective to SHOW us how corrupt you are, don’t just sit there looking all evil and explain everything.
I love Meryl Streep dearly. She’s my favorite actress hands down. And I love Steven Soderbergh, he’s a very gifted director. But The Laundromat is a failure. You can’t try to fit 45 minutes of two very different types of films into one and expect a good result. The result here ends up being tonally jarring, jumbled, and confusing. Again, I want the issues presented here talked about, but not in a messy film like this.