The first time I heard the premise of “Let Them All Talk,” I thought– Love Boat, Golden Girls. what is this? Why are Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, and Candice Bergen getting involved in this kind of shmaltzy nonsense? And why is two time Oscar winner Steven Soderbergh directing it?
But then there’s the screenwriter, Deborah Eisenberg, famous from the New Yorker, married a long time to actor Wally Shawn, who’s been in projects with all three of these powerhouse actresses. And Lucas Hedges and Gemma Chan are the “young people.” It’s not like they’re Donnie and Marie.
Upfront I’ll tell you “Let Them All Talk” was sold to HBO Max, but because of this year’s Oscar rules, it’s eligible for everything. I didn’t know that when I saw it. Last week, everyone was focused on Meryl in “The Prom.” But I knew better. Soderbergh, very slyly, has pulled off a quite triumph.
The premise is that Streep is literary award winning writer Alice Hughes. She’s wanted in London to accept a prestigious prize so she asks if she can take her two college pals– Bergen and Wiest– and nephew Hedges. She will only go by boat, so they all board the Queen Mary for Southampton after her book agent (Gemma Chan) gets her a lecture gig.
It’s not exactly The Love Boat. Well, maybe if Robert Altman had filmed it. “LTAT” has that feeling of being intimate and on the fly, almost cinema verite, when it’s quite constructed. That’s its magic. Each of the women has secrets and issues, many of them are unexplained for a long time, none are obvious. Meryl’s Alice believes her own publicity, Wiest’s Susan has hidden wisdom, Bergen’s Roberta is garrulous and direct.
Streep and Wiest are wonderful, of course. Streep has the showier part, a kind of Lear unraveling before our eyes, charming and dangerous. It’s one of her best performances, apples and oranges to “The Prom.”
But it’s Bergen who really knocked me out. She just keeps transcending herself in all these post- Murphy Brown movies. Roberta is broke, she hates Alice for ruining her life, she is bluntly on a gold digging mission for a husband. Maybe it’s a silver mining expedition. Her standards aren’t that high. She just wants to find a dignified third act. I really liked her so much. I want to be snookered by her myself.
And then, after the movie makes a sharp turn, it’s Roberta who brings dignity to the proceedings. She’s the unexpected heroine. Bergen deserves a Supporting Actress nomination. I put her in with my favorite supporting performances of this season including Valerie Mahaffey from “French Exit,” Marisa Tomei from “King of Staten Island,” Cherry Jones from “Rainy Day in New York,” Swankie from “Nomadland,” and Amanda Seyfried from “Mank.”
Soderbergh shot this for nothing, basically, did his own editing and cinematography. “LTAT” will stand high on his already impressive resume.