Nov 24, 2019
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
The Laundromat now streaming on Netflix has nothing to do with washing machines but it has a great deal to do with spin cycles. The film opens incongruously with two outrageously dressed commentators in sparkly tuxedos who explain to us the finer points of economics as applied to the rich. Apparently the 1% have one system and everyone else adheres to a more traditional arrangement. This condescending lecture is delivered directly to the camera against an opulent setting. It looks as if Antonio Banderas and Gary Oldman are having a good time, very much enjoying their roles. They appear periodically in this episodic piece functioning as a kind of Greek chorus interpreting what is going on in the basic scheme of things.
Suddenly we are thrust into mid-America. This initial chapter is called "The Meek Are Screwed". Meryl Streep, a senior citizen, is on a outing with her husband, James Cromwell. There is a horrific boating accident and Cromwell drowns. David Schwimmer explains that the boat company has essentially been duped by an unscrupulous insurance company which leads Meryl on a circuitous journey in her attempt to collect. The narrative spine of the plot follows Meryl to Las Vegas, to the tropics and South America as she attempts to get what is owed her. The subplot follows the money to a huge, opulent estate of an African-American father and finally to China.
What we witness is a scathing critique of corporate corruption. There are flashes of The Big Short here and remembrances of Gordon Gekko's classic line in Wall Street, "Greed, for lack of a better word, is good." Taken from a non-fictional book by Jake Bernstein and based on the "Panama Papers" scandal, the film demonstrates how the rich and famous avoid paying taxes, through fraud and in the over two-hundred shell companies that are off shore. A whistle blower leaked the information for the book because he was disturbed over income inequality. The Laundromat might give some insights into why there are those who are maniacally determined not to release their tax records.
A sterling cast is at work here headed by Oscar winning director, Steven Soderbergh. The film is not always easy to understand. The machinations behind all the money laundering are indeed confusing and complex. There is a phenomenal twist at the end that was a stunner. Wait for it!
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