LET THEM ALL TALK
(director/writer: Steven Soderbergh; screenwriter: Deborah Eisenberg; cinematographer: Steven Soderbergh; editor: Steven Soderbergh; music: Thomas Newman; cast: Meryl Streep (Alice Hughes), Gemma Chan (Karen), Dianne Wiest (Susan), Christopher Fitzgerald (Eddie), Candice Bergen (Roberta), Mary Catherine Garrison (Customer), Dan Algrant (Kelvin Kranz), Elna Baker (Clovis), Lucas Hedges(Tyler), John Douglas Thompson (Dr. Mitchell); Runtime: 113; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Gregory Jacobs; HBO Max; 2020)
“Though I like individually all the stars, but not in the same film when working with such an inadequate script.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Steven Soderbergh (“Sex, Lies and Videotape”/”Traffic”) directs and co-writes with short story author Deborah Eisenberg this jejune literary comedy drama in need of a better script (or less improvisations) and perhaps less stars who lack chemistry together and more that do.
The celebrated Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) goes to England with her two best college friends–the estranged Roberta (Candice Bergen), whom she has not spoken to in 30 years and the reticent Susan (Dianne Wiest, in a small part that wastes her talents), who has also not spoken to the author in a while. Also along for the trip is Alice’s beloved nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges), who was brought along to look after the ladies. The NYC residing author, who does not fly, travels by sea for a trans-Atlantic voyage on the luxury liner Queen Mary II (for purposes of realism it was filmed aboard the liner on a two-week voyage).
The plot has Alice picking up a prestigious literary prize in London and bringing along her BFFs in order for a chance to reconnect with the ladies which she may never get again another chance to do (with the liner for publicity purposes giving the author’s guests free passage). The author’s tense new agent Karen (Gemma Chan) has also secretly come aboard to keep an eye on her troubled client, wanting to know the close-mouthed author’s unrevealed subject of her next book, that she’s finishing on the voyage. Karen hopes to do this by clinging to Tyler, and getting him to ask his aunt what the new book is about and then getting him to tell her.
We learn that Roberta abhors Alice for using her life story as the material for her most famous book, which supposedly ruined her life. Susan, during the bumpy voyage, acts as a buffer between the warring parties, trying to get them to chill. We learn Roberta came on the voyage to meet a rich man who is marriage material, while Susan delights in knowing that her favorite author, the best-selling mystery-thriller novelist Kelvin Krantz (Dan Algrant), will be on board.
The chippy ladies are playful and can’t stop talking, and the affected direction by Soderbergh who is making an experimental film about communication and how its misunderstood, and of the importance of treating people right. But he can’t reign in all the chatter and frivolity.
Though I like individually all the stars, but not in the same film when working with such an inadequate script.
REVIEWED ON 12/16/2020 GRADE: C+