Friday Film Review: 'The Laundromat'

Jun 5, 2020

Barb Bretz reviews The Laundromat in this week's Friday Film Review.

Have you ever wondered when exactly the meek shall inherit the Earth? This week's film The Laundromat lets you know NOT to hold your breath. Here's Barb Bretz with this week’s Friday Film Review.

The Laundromat directed by Steven Soderbergh is based on Jake Bernstein's nonfiction book 'Secrecy World' about the 2016 Panama Papers scandal.

Jurgen Mossack played by Gary Oldman and Ramon Fonseca played by Antonio Bandaras are narrators for three vignettes illustrating how the wealthy and powerful armed with teams of accountants and lawyers rake in and hide massive fortunes while putting the screws to everyone else. In the end, our narrators are also the perpetrators, partners running a Panamanian Law Firm.

As in the 2015 film The Big Short, our narrators speak directly to us as they move through exotic and generic locations explaining the terms and concepts of shifting financial resources and creating shell companies to hide and launder money.

Several other recognizable actors: David Schwimmer, Melissa Rauch, James Cromwell, Sharon Stone and Matt Forte have small roles. However, it's Meryl Streep's character of Ellen Martin who obsesses over the unfairness and tries to untangle the dishonest and you would think illegal practices.

A whistle blower still known only as “John Doe” eventually revealed 11.5 million documents, proving 95% of the company's work consisted of inventing shell companies for tax avoidance. This particular operation was shut down. In the film, our perpetrators were only incarcerated for a moment. In real life it was a whopping three months. 

The film ends with a powerful monologue from Streep's character. I can't tell you what you'll see because it would be a total spoiler, but her words are those of the actual whistle blower.

“In this system, our system, the slaves are unaware both of their status and of their masters who exist in a world apart and where the shackles are hidden amongst reams of unreachable legalese. “

And, Meryl being Meryl, at the very end delivers a call to action as she criticizes the USA for its role as a tax haven. “Now is the time for real action,” she says. “It starts with asking questions. How can we expect change when those in power are actively passing laws that reinforce the status quo?”   

The Laundromat is rated R and runs 1:36. This is Barb Bretz with your Friday Film Review. See you at the movies.