The Laundromat

The Laundromat Review

by C. Gibson

*** 3 Stars

The Laundromat is challenging to follow, with the numerous locations, multiple plot twists and tedious talk of insurance and money laundering.

The Laundromat, directed by Steven Soderbergh, is a 2019 American comedy drama, staring multi-award-winning actress, Meryl Streep as Ellen Martin. We are initially introduced to Mossack and Fonseca, who establish the concept of money laundering, acting as narrators for those affected by the repercussions of a faulty insurance policy. Based on real events, the story begins with the unfortunate loss of Ellen’s husband, Joe, who drowns after capsizing in a tourist boat. ‘This is the fourteenth of twenty one funerals that this tragedy has visited’. Upon hearing this unnerving statement, Martin takes it upon herself to investigate the suspicious deaths.

It promptly becomes apparent that a fake insurance policy has been sold to another company, unaware of the illegal schemes that are attached to it. We are provided with an insight into the corrupt Panama City Law Firm’s assistance in the rich becoming richer, through an avoidance of tax paying. The financial system hints at many illicit programmes of bribery and tax evasion and exploits the work of the less fortunate, leaving the current owners liable for the deaths, following the realisation that any legitimate insurance strategies have expired.

Whilst remaining comical in the representation of a corrupt law firm, Soderbergh creates a layered depiction of the intricate details of a system of laws, enabling wealthy corporations to avoid tax paying and facing little or no consequences for doing so.

The Laundromat is challenging to follow, with the numerous locations, multiple plot twists and tedious talk of insurance and money laundering. In spite of this, the drive of a determined woman, desperate to achieve justice for her husband’s premature death, forms an enticing story that the audience can appreciate.

If your brain is still functioning at this point, be prepared for a shift when an additional two stories are introduced. One explores the daughter (Simone) of an African billionaire (Charles) who is brought to the realisation that her father is having an affair with her best friend. When she threatens to expose his affair to her mother, Charles enforces a bribe of 20 million dollars to keep her quiet. However, after travelling to Panama City to claim this share, she discovers that the money is invalid and instead part of a shell company that never existed.

I found the timeline extremely scattered, with the two narrators occasionally popping up to explain the workings of the financial aspects. Improvements could have been made to the overall structure as the director’s emphasis on a complex presentation, deters the focus away from the events. This is a flaw that could have been avoided with a more simplistic style. 

The Laundromat is currently available on Netflix and was rated 15 by the BBFC.

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