Let Them All Talk

 

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Steven Soderburgh and Meryl Streep set sail aboard the Queen Mary 2. 


Let Them All Talk

Gift of the gab: Lucas Hedges and Meryl Streep

  

Unable to fly, best-selling author Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) is encouraged by her literary agent (Gemma Chan) to take an all-expenses-paid voyage across the Atlantic to collect a prestigious writing award in the UK. She brings along her nephew (Lucas Hedges) and two old college friends (Dianne Wiest and Candice Bergen), but spends most of her time at work on her next, strictly under-wraps, novel. Could it be a sequel to her Pulitzer-Prize winning success? As the journey unfolds, old wounds emerge and relationships are strained by miscommunication.

 

What do the cinematographer Peter Andrews and the editor Mary Ann Bernard have in common with the director Steven Soderbergh? In addition to being the names of Soderbergh’s parents, they are in fact pseudonyms for Soderbergh himself. With a personal policy to have his name appear only once on-screen, Soderbergh commonly attributes his work to an evolving list of personas. In 2011, ‘Peter Andrews'’ contributed his efforts to Soderbergh’s prescient, forewarning Contagion, which became one of the most-watched movies of 2020. Reportedly, the rediscovery of the pandemic film has even inspired the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination strategy. With the industry on pause, Soderbergh has managed quite a year. His move in 2019 to begin releasing films direct-to-streaming also seems incredibly forward-thinking given our present state. He’s recently been tapped to produce an unprecedented Oscar ceremony and has forged a new distribution arrangement with HBO Max for his latest endeavour, Let Them All Talk.

 

In true Soderberghian fashion, the glossy comedy-drama is achieved with a true indie spirit. It takes a master filmmaker to carry off a challenge like this one – shot in two weeks, using only natural light and minimal equipment, during an actual transatlantic crossing of the Queen Mary 2. Despite a writing credit to the American short story author Deborah Eisenberg (a real person), the vast majority of the dialogue was improvised. Soderbergh literally turned the camera on and let them all talk; yet the final result is all auteur. There should be a word for accomplished filmmakers who embrace minimalist filmmaking – ‘glamouerilla’ perhaps? The nature of improv makes for an especially engaging cast, with genuine interactions bringing an excellent quality to this character study. What may seem a fairly straightforward and underwhelming story is on further inspection a fascinating dialogue on the nature of communication: that is, the ability for a thought or idea to be transmitted, received and interpreted by another without the limitations of space and time. Though the culminating incidents are both intriguing and frustrating, the crossing is well worth taking from the comfort of your home box-office.   

 

CHAD KENNERK

 

Cast: Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Gemma Chan, Lucas Hedges, Dianne Wiest, John Douglas Thompson, Christopher Fitzgerald, Daniel Algrant.

 

Dir Steven Soderbergh, Pro Gregory Jacobs, Screenplay Deborah Eisenberg, Ph Peter Andrews, Pro Des Andy Eklund, Ed Mary Ann Bernard, Music Thomas Newman, Costumes Ellen Mirojnick.

 

Warner Max/Extension 765-HBO Max.

113 mins. USA. 2020. US Rel: 10 December 2020. Cert. R.