Friday, December 11, 2020

Film Review: "Let Them All Talk" (2020)

It's the first of two consecutive nights we get to stream Meryl in leading roles for a feature film. First up: Steven Soderbergh's Let Them All Talk. 

HBO Max does the honors for this evening. The movie centers on fictional Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Hughes, as she makes "a crossing" (Alice "can't fly) from New York to Southampton aboard the Queen Mary 2 to accept a literary prize. Along with her she takes her nephew Tyler (played by Lucas Hedges) and her former college buddies, Roberta (Candice Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest). 

I watched the move tonight with my husband, Joe, and we were both giggling from the start. Mostly at Candice Bergen's character, a golddigger convinced that Alice has ruined her life by using her for the main character in one of her successful books. Then at Meryl's pompous deliveries of a self-absorbed but not necessarily self-aware writer. Wiest perhaps has the best one-liners, and is the only one seemingly level-headed enough to try to build bridges amongst the trio of friends. Gemma Chan rounds out the main cast as Alice's literary agent, who quietly joins the ship in hope of unearthing her client's latest manuscript prospects. Old grudges are brought to the service and a budding romance develops, as the liner makes its way across the Atlantic. I don't want to give away spoilers so I'll just give some more general reactions. 

We know by now that a lot of the dialogue of the film was improvised. The cast was told where a scene would need to end, but a lot of the middle of it was made up as they went along. There was a bit of that sense during the film, with Joe and I commenting on which parts we felt had to have part of the original screenplay, and which we felt were likely improvised. 

Meryl, not surprisingly, is a joy to watch. She's convincing as a successful novelist, someone who considers herself an intellectual, and assumes that anything on which she happens to opine is worthy of great attention. I'm sure many reviewers are commenting on how it's one of her more subtle performances in recent years, and they'd be right. It's a quiet movie, where the cast really is just left to talk.


It's true that there's not a lot of obvious conflict until the second half of the movie. Things are hinted at throughout, and that's a pretty effective burn for folks who aren't spoiled by only ever consuming thrillers or Marvel movies. I wouldn't have minded if we'd seen more fireworks between Alice and Roberta early on, or if Susan had thrown down a little earlier.

The film is ripe with unsolved mystery and surprise. I honestly was not expecting it to end the way it did, but it offered one more little dramatic hit that brings the viewer out of the polite, but clever banter to which we become accustomed. 

The cinematography is lovely. I've historically been averse to the idea of ever being on a cruise, and this movie has not changed my mind--unless I can ride on the ship with a maximum of five other friends. 

What do we think about awards recognition for this movie?! It's a tricky one. The film is unlike any other I've ever seen...filmed in ten days, three 70-plus actresses in the main roles, not much of a score. It's going to go Comedy for the Globes, and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Meryl got double nommed for this and The Prom (one day sight unseen). But I think it's likely too low-key for voters to pull that first-place-vote trigger at Oscar. 

I'll have more to say on that topic after tomorrow night. 


  1. Loved this movie, its like something I have t seen in a long time, if at all! Meryl was divine

  2. Bergen’s performance is being lauded as best in show. A BSA Oscar nomination perhaps?

    1. I'd be thrilled by that. I think it's a long shot, but not out of the realm of possibility.