“The Laundromat” leaves its stories out to dry


Jordan Douthit

Steven Soderbergh’s “The Laundromat” tackles the Panama Papers with an all-star cast, including Academy Award winners Meryl Streep and Gary Oldman.

Craig Odenwald, Staff Writer

The world of corporations, tax evasions, and fraud is ripe for unique stories, whether funny or tragic. Steven Soderbergh attempts to provide a mixture of the two in his new Netflix film, “The Laundromat,” and ends up with mixed results.

“The Laundromat” stars Meryl Streep as Ellen Martin, the protagonist of the story –– or, at least, that’s what the audience is first led to believe. Streep’s character has been recently widowed after a boating accident led to her husband’s death. She is determined to find out why there is such a paltry settlement for the victims, and comes to find out that there is a larger scam at play.

But the first issue comes with her character, not her acting. Streep plays off of the other characters well and displays an earnest sense of curiosity and conviction. The issue is that she’s not actually the protagonist, despite what the first 45 minutes of the film would lead the audience to believe.

Instead, “The Laundromat” takes the stories of multiple files from the real-life Panama Papers incident, in which Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca held multiple shell companies for everyone from dictators to shady businessmen. Ellen Martin’s story could be a focal point for the film the entire way through, but instead, Soderbergh temporarily abandons her story at the halfway mark. He finds her again with five minutes to go, and until then, the film is left to complete disorganization.

The remaining 45 minutes tells the stories of two other individuals who had their lives changed or were supported by Mossack Fonesca. The first, Nonso Anozie’s Charles, is a rich businessman whose daughter finds out that he is having an affair. His storyline is tense and offers insights into the world of bribery, but ultimately contributes nothing to the first storyline. In no way does his tale help Martin uncover more about the questionable business dealings of Mossack Fonesca. The second tale, featuring Matthias Schoenaerts’s Maywood, also has the same despicability as Charles’s tale, but also lacks focus or relevance.

Soderbergh attempts to link the stories through the narration of Mossack Fonesca’s partners, Gary Oldman’s Jurgen Mossack and Antonio Banderas’s Ramon Fonesca. They break the fourth wall and describe their deceitful business practices to the audience, constantly stating how the film’s events are not their fault. Even their goofy chemistry can’t save the movie, as the film’s colorful and fast-paced atmosphere means that it’s hard to keep up with their explanations of how Virgin Islands tax schemes operate. The duo ultimately becomes a representation of the larger movie as a whole: amusing, yet wildly disorganized and unfocused.

Plus, while trying to explain topics such as bribery, tax evasion, and whistleblowing, Gary Oldman attempts to speak in an over-the-top German accent. The less said about that, the better.

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