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The Laundromat: everything you need to know about Meryl Streep’s new film based on the Panama Papers

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Christobel Hastings
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Prepare for rage: Hollywood powerhouse Meryl Streep is back on our screens as a mad-as-hell widow in The Laundromat, an upcoming Netflix film based on the infamous Panama Papers scandal. 

If you’ve been glued to HBO’s breakout hit Big Little Lies, you’ll know that one of the defining moments of the second season was the villainous Mary Louise’s bloodcurdling scream. As well as piercing our eardrums and capturing the all-consuming state of grief, it reminded us all over again why Meryl Streep is one of best female actors in Hollywood. 

If you thought that Streep couldn’t top that scene-stealing entrance though, think again. Because the powerhouse is back on our screens with a new film, The Laundromat, a dark comedy exploring the infamous Panama Papers scandal. This time around, she’s channelling pure unadulterated rage as a widow on a quest to take down the scammers that led her to financial ruin. Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know. 

The Laundromat: Meryl Streep stars as frustrated widow Ellen Martin

What is the plot of The Laundromat?

The Laundromat tells the story of a frustrated middle-class widow, Ellen Martin (Meryl Streep) who is on a hunt to investigate a fake insurance policy that has stripped her of her money. 

When Streep starts to dig a little to find out exactly what happened to her money, she uncovers a string of questionable dealings linked to a Panama City law firm. The problems, she discovers, are much bigger than she ever could have imagined.

Her trail leads her to a pair of Panama City law partners, Jurgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramon Fonseca (Antonio Banderas) who are at the centre of an international scam involving shell companies, offshore accounts, and corrupt financial dealings that help the world’s wealthiest individuals prosper. The sleazy duo are having a great time exploiting the world’s financial systems, until Martin arrives on the scenes to blow their cover. “Somebody has to sound the alarm!” she declares, and that’s exactly what she sets about to do.

Who is in the cast of The Laundromat?

The Laundromat boasts a seriously star-studded cast, not least because Meryl Streep, considered by many to be the best actress of generation, and who has been nominated for a record-breaking 21 Academy Awards, is leading the lineup.

Meanwhile, Gary Oldman and Antonia Banderas play the brilliantly unhinged lawyers at the centre of the operation, cackling and scheming in their patterned suits.

The Laundromat cast also stars a roster of big-hitters such as David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Sharon Stone, Jeffrey Wright, Melissa Rauch and Jeff Michalski.

Based on Jake Bernstein’s non-fiction book Secrecy World: Inside the Panama Papers Investigation of Illicit Money Networks and the Global Elite, the film is directed by Steven Soderbergh, the man behind Ocean’s Eleven and Magic Mike. 

The Laundromat: Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas as Panama City law partners Jurgen Mossack and Ramon Fonseca

What are the Panama Papers?

As the trailer so brilliantly puts it, The Laundromat is “based on some real shit”, namely the Panama Papers. 

Often referred to as “history’s biggest data leak”, the Panama Papers refer to 11.5 million leaked documents that belonged to the world’s fourth biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca. They revealed a huge international network of tax evasion, bribery and other illicit financial dealings that allowed the world’s rich and famous to avoid paying billions in taxes.

The documents indicated that a worldwide web of prominent political leaders, including Russian president Vladimir Putin, the former prime minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif, the former president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, and the former prime minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, had been involved in legal swindling.

When is The Laundromat released?

The Laundromat has its world premiere this week at the Venice Film Festival, with a limited theatrical release starting on Netflix on 7 September. The film will then be released for subscribers to stream on 18 October. 

Is there a trailer for The Laundromat?

The first full trailer for The Laundromat has just been released by Netflix ahead of the Oscar race later this year, which you can watch below.

Images: Netflix