As I think you can tell, I like Soderbergh. Great cast. Fantastic study of character. The dialogue was well written and flowed very naturally. Candice is a winner – her eye rolls and attitude. And those whispers of truth behind Streep’s persona – she does that so well. Totally enjoyable film.
Soderbergh’s latest stars Streep as a distinguished novelist travelling to collect a literary prize. In order to receive it, she must go to England, but she won’t fly. Instead, she condescends to travel by water, roughing it in a two-story suite on the vessel, from New York to Southampton. She is accompanied by her nephew, Tyler, plus two old friends of hers from college, Susan and Roberta. One is an advocate for imprisoned women, in Seattle; the other sells lingerie in Dallas. Alice hasn’t seen either of them in decades, so now is a chance to catch up. Such is the quartet of characters on whom this movie turns.
Most of the action was filmed on the Queen Mary 2, during a crossing in August 2019, and you’re never entirely sure to what extent the resident mortals are aware of the stars who have descended among them. The film belongs to the gang of speedy, shot-from-the-hip movies (like his Unsane) that Soderbergh likes to fire off now and then, using the lightest and least obtrusive tools for the job. Some may think anyone can do it – but only Soderbergh can shift gears on a dime. Gradually, against all expectation, we find ourselves in a serious and somewhat Jamesian drama, strewn with riddles.
How does success change a friendship? How does expectation lead to doubt? Soderbergh allows his cast to play with questions like these without overemphasising them. He allows the characters to wander off into subplots. It’s a film that could be too talky for some people, but there’s something invigorating about a movie that’s more concerned about well-rounded, genuine people than traditional Hollywood archetypes. And the movie’s casual, hang-out feel is buoyed by Soderbergh’s top-notch craftsmanship.
USA 2020, 113 min, rated PG (language)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Starring Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Lucas Hedges, Gemma Chan & Dan Algrant