Saturday 9 April 2022

Movie Review: Let Them All Talk (2020)

A dramedy about friendship, Let Them All Talk is a pleasantly scattered literary sailing.

Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) is a New York-based prize-winner author. Afraid of flying but invited to receive a prestigious award in London, she decides to cross the Atlantic on the Queen Mary 2. Alice invites her nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges) to join the trip, along with her two best friends from college days: Susan (Dianne Wiest) now advocates for prisoners' rights, while Roberta (Candice Bergen) is divorced, has a lowly retail job, and is seeking a rich husband. Alice's new agent Karen (Gemma Chan) also makes the trip, desperate to uncover information about her secretive client's latest manuscript.

During the crossing Tyler and Karen start hanging out, while decades of tension surface between Alice and Roberta, who believes she was the subject of her friend's most celebrated book. Susan tries to play peacemaker, Roberta is on the prowl for a rich man, Alice privately works on her new book, and the whole group is intrigued when they spot world-famous crime novel author Kelvin Kranz (Daniel Algrant) among the passengers.

A streamlined production directed by Steven Soderbergh and (loosely) written by Deborah Eisenberg, Let Them All Talk is an honest title. With plenty of improvisation spicing up awkward connections, this is a series of short and bright conversations between interesting characters as a luxury liner powers across the ocean. The spectacular cast is afforded almost free reign to steer scenes, and they deliver natural interactions with enough discipline to maintain coherence, landing short of profound but well above frivolous.

The number of passengers on this particular sailing is suspiciously low (the background is often empty), but the setup is an otherwise snug trip filled with the threat of revelations. Soderbergh served as his own cinematographer and editor, and keeps the scenes sharp. Conversations end without a moment of fat, building a convincing sense of eavesdropping on mid-life luggage with more to the story than these characters will ever be comfortable sharing. The budding but awkward romance between Tyler and Karen mixes well with Alice's haughtiness and layers of passive-aggressiveness harboured by Roberta, but the side-quest involving crime author Kranz is an only partially successful catalyst.

Through the simple premise the film perhaps over-reaches for some lofty themes. Alice is enamored with an obscure Welsh writer, and expresses her admiration with lyrical discourse about the ties that bind across time and generations. Her exploration of the human condition is worthwhile, but also sets her well apart and underlines the disconnect with her friends.

The final act finds bittersweet twists, as Let Them All Talk happily charts a choppy course, the untidy resolutions mimicking life's unscripted surprises.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.