Review by Sean Boelman
Making the jump from short prose to screenwriting can prove to be quite a challenge, but acclaimed writer Debroah Eisenberg found a wonderful collaborator to bring her vision to life in master filmmaker Steven Soderbergh. Let Them All Talk continues Soderbergh’s interesting streak, with a funny reflection on writing and mortality.
The film follows an acclaimed author who, years separated from her greatest hit, goes on a cruise trip with her closest friends and nephew to accept a literary award, coming to terms with her past along the way. This story is specific in a way that would make viewers question why they should care, but Soderbergh directs the heck out of the script and makes something legitimately cinematic out of it.
Much of the first half of the movie takes the form of a buoyant and literary comedy, with high-society characters talking about first-world problems. However, as the character dynamics begin to evolve, the film turns into something far more intriguing: a somber, almost cerebral meditation on some poignant ideas.
Anyone who is a storyteller will undeniably be interested in the questions that Eisenberg poses about the process. Some of the most thought-provoking moments in the movie challenge the idea of subjective experience and whether or not one is truly the owner of the story that they have lived.
As is the case with most ensemble films, the character development is certainly skewed, but each of them has some compelling features. Even those that seem like they are going to simply be comedic side characters end up playing a substantial role by the time the third act rolls around, and the level of intricacy with which Eisenberg wrote them is impressive.
Meryl Streep is great (as usual) as the disillusioned writer protagonist, chewing up the scenery with her also talented co-stars. The standout in the ensemble is likely Dianne Wiest, who has some absolutely hilarious moments, although Lucas Hedges, Gemma Chan, and Candice Bergen are all good too.
And even though Soderbergh may have moved past his technological innovation phase, he obviously learned a lot from this bout in his career. He shoots the movie in a very dynamic way even though most of the film is confined to a cruise ship. This is a big part of what makes the film work despite its seemingly niche topic.
Let Them All Talk is another great entry into Soderbergh’s repertoire even if it isn’t what one would expect. Audiences will likely be lured in by the star power of the film’s cast but will be most impressed by the thoughtfulness of the script.
Let Them All Talk streams on HBO Max beginning December 10.