You know, maybe Meryl Streep shouldn’t work with Steven Soderbergh anymore. In between this and “The Laundromat,” the king of overrated directors has somehow managed to make the towering performer’s versatility into a sort-of inside joke, a cynical, mean-spirited dig at the Let’s Watch Meryl Act appeal that has made Streep one of the biggest movie stars of the last few decades. In “The Laundromat,” Soderbergh extracted a horrid, self-parodying performance out of her; here, he directs a loudly mannered performance from her, with every line delivery and physical tic manufactured beyond believability. However, Streep’s performance isn’t the only problem with this aimless, lazily pretentious melodrama; there’s just no character to root for, and all their motivations are either poorly defined, or, when resolved, unsatisfying and staggeringly pedestrian from a cinematic perspective. Take Candice Bergen’s Roberta for example: Roberta is the Dorothy Zbornak of this seabound crew, but she’s mean-spirited, childish, immature and delights in casual cruelty towards just about anyone, but especially Streep’s Alice. So even though we don’t like Alice, there’s no joy in watching her receive Roberta’s blows because, well, Roberta’s the worst, too. Amidst a coterie of uninteresting supporting characters there’s Dianne Wiest’s Susan, who wanders in and out of the narrative and brings positivity and common sense to the proceedings, but she’s constantly side-lined by the disinterested narrative so we don’t even really get to enjoy Wiest’s natural screen charisma (although, note the delightful way she delivers “Bow down bitches” to Roberta after winning a chess game, it just makes you wish there had been more of her). Anyways, what I have to say about this movie is that it’s not unwatchable, just shallow and kind of unpleasant.
Rating: ★★ (out of 5)