Parents' Guide to

Let Them All Talk

By Barbara Shulgasser-Parker, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 16+

Drama about aging author lacks kid appeal; language.

Movie R 2020 113 minutes
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Meryl Streep is one of the great actors of modern film, and it's a joy to watch her do and say just about anything. That said, Let Them All Talk feels like what happens when friends get together and make cake from a mix rather than from scratch. The outcome is tasty enough, but better ingredients and perhaps a greater investment of time might have yielded a more delicious treat. Streep and her magnificent castmates Wiest and Bergen have reported they improvised their lines from the story originated by Soderbergh and mapped out by writer Deborah Eisenberg. Although rigorous discipline was clearly necessary to complete this film in only a few weeks of shooting, it still feels as if a well-written, dialogued script would've improved the flavor and texture of this confection enormously. Even so, Bergen's dry delivery and expert comic timing bring Roberta vividly to life. Plus, any artistic exploration of the complex emotional lives of people in their 70s is welcome in a youth-dominated culture. Yet, closer scrutiny by a writer's eye would have revealed the weakness and implausibility of a disposable subplot involving Alice's new literary agent, who comes along on the crossing for an utterly indefensible reason. And why does Alice try to connect with friends she hasn't seen in 30 years? She wonders why the estranged friends agreed to come on the cruise , but never reveals the solution to the greater enigma, why did she invite them after so many years? Why does she repeatedly ask only one of them to meet in private? Finally, the ending is almost amateurishly abrupt and, given the fact that it involves the main character, strangely devoid of any emotional impact.

In the past, making a film has required huge amounts of funding, equipment, personnel, sets, and locations, so it was impossible for cinema artists to just noodle around in the medium, the way Picasso could dash off a pencil sketch. But now equipment, streaming, and editing apps make it possible for artists to less expensively whip up cinematic equivalents to sketches and we should be glad of it. Not every film must be a masterpiece. Soderbergh is a gift to the film world, talented, visionary, stimulating, and willing to take risks, but with every risk comes a range of possible outcomes, from greatness to failure. This falls between, and there's no shame in it.

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