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The Laundromat

Movie review by
Tara McNamara, Common Sense Media
The Laundromat Movie Poster Image
Soderbergh's mature tax-avoidance tutorial is eye-opening.
  • R
  • 2019
  • 95 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

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We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Bending the law has consequences that will eventually catch up to you. Ask questions, stay vigilant, persevere, and stand up to corruption by demanding laws that protect those who aren't wealthy. Commentary on greed that's historically and politically relevant. Biblical tenet of "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth" is explored, proven correct.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Most characters are scoundrels in one way or another, except for widow Ellen Martin, who's curious, persistent in finding and sharing the truth. This is a global story, and people from various countries, races, ethnicities are represented (although most are cads).

Violence

A fantasy sequence includes an office shooting; no people are struck. In a viscerally revolting scene, a human body is cut open. An eyeball is sliced during surgery. Several deaths, including when a tourist boat capsizes (occupants are shown fighting for their lives or floating lifelessly). A character smacks their spouse in anger. Other violence is implied or discussed in detail.

Sex

Porn is seen clearly on a background TV, with two naked women participating in a threesome. An unfaithful spouse has a dominant storyline. One woman's cleavage is seen in lingerie, a swimsuit, a tight dress.

Language

Many uses of "f--k." Also, "goddamn," "s--t," "slut," "whore," and "suck my d--k." 

Consumerism

Designer bags, clothes, and goods and luxury cars, homes, and private planes are shown throughout. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol of all sorts (champagne, martinis, Japanese whiskey, wine, umbrella drinks) is consumed or carried as an accessory to demonstrate wealth and power. A couple of scenes in bars. Oxycodone is shown being cut into lines, although it's clear no one will actually snort it.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Steven Soderbergh's The Laundromat is a quirky, spirited, star-studded drama that explains the Panama Papers scandal and why it still needs attention. Like The Big Short or Moneyball, the film portrays a dry, complicated subject -- in this case, off-shore accounts and shell companies -- with humanizing examples of why these things are shady and fraught with corruption. A widow played by Meryl Streep is the heart of the film: Her character exemplifies how curiosity and perseverance can make a difference. While it's by no means a faith-based film, the biblical promise that "the meek shall inherit the Earth" is a recurring theme. Expect some violent, upsetting, or mature images, including a disemboweled victim, a dream in which a sympathetic character goes on a shooting rampage, and (on a background TV) an adult film featuring two naked women pleasuring a man. Cocktails and alcohol are associated with wealth and privilege, and young viewers might find the excessive, lavish lifestyles of the "bad guys" appealing. Strong language includes frequent use of "f--k." Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas co-star.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bydavispittman November 11, 2019

Very important message executed poorly

I wanted to love The Laundromat so badly, I really did. Well first of all, I thought this was going to be an actual film with a plot, it’s really not. It starts... Continue reading

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What's the story?

In THE LAUNDROMAT, widow Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) is left without a settlement after the wrongful death of her husband (James Cromwell). She goes on a global quest to track down who was responsible and find out how they're able to get away with fraud. Her unrelenting search brings her to a Panama law firm that sets up shell companies for the wealthy and powerful.

Is it any good?

Steven Soderbergh's effort to educate viewers on important but dry matters of money manipulation is depressing, but it's not without purpose. The film directs viewers to stand up and take action, pointing out how laws have been changed to make tax avoidance easier by those who can afford a wealth management team. It's informative, explaining straight to the camera the origins of money, credit, and where it all goes askew. That said, it's hard to imagine most teens getting excited to be educated by a movie about financial manipulation and tax laws.

Unlike similarly themed movies The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, The Laundromat isn't shockingly funny. But, like those films, the story is told from the perpetrators' point of view. They explain what happened while also shirking responsibility and pointing fingers at others. Clients find that their bad behavior has put them into a precarious position. They defend their solutions with arguments that adults may recognize don't hold water -- but to younger, more impressionable minds, those arguments may sound sensible. The cast is full of award winners and familiar faces, to the point that counting up the cameos is its own joy. The Laundromat isn't the zippiest film of its sort, but, for knowledge seekers, it's an entertaining way to understand money laundering at the highest level. It drives home how the rich and powerful are using loopholes and legal manipulations to avoid paying taxes, leaving the poor and middle class holding the bag.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about greed. Why do you think some of the wealthiest people in the world would want to avoid paying their fair share? What does that do to law-abiding citizens? Why do we pay taxes?

  • Talk about the reasons the lawyers give for why they shouldn't be held responsible for their clients' corrupt actions. Can something be legal but also immoral?

  • How does Ellen demonstrate perseverance in The Laundromat? Why is that an important character strength?

  • What action does the film want you to take? Do you feel inclined to do so? How can films be tools of change?

  • Several characters mention the Bible verse "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth." What does that mean? Why do you think the filmmaker kept coming back to that message?

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