Movies: Let Them All Talk

Mpepper/ September 4, 2021/ Reviews

It’s easy to tell from the get-go that this movie has no script. As a writer, I don’t think that’s a good thing. As a viewer… I think it could have been interesting? But it wasn’t.

This movie stars Meryl Streep as Alice, a writer due to turn in her latest manuscript any day now. She’s also supposed to receive a prestigious award in the UK, but she “can’t fly” (her words), so her young, new agent Karen (Gemma Chan) books her on the two-week Atlantic crossing of the Queen Mary 2. Alice invites her estranged friends Susan (Dianne Wiest) and Roberta (Candice Bergen) along for the trip, as well as her nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges, as awkward as my son would be if I dragged him on a trip with my friends and expected him to keep them company while I worked). Also on the ship, unbeknownst to Alice, is Karen, who uses Tyler as a spy for how the manuscript is coming along.

As a setup, it has potential. This could have been riotously funny. Or the old, festering resentment between Roberta and Alice could have been played for true tension and pathos. Instead, due to a lack of script, this story meanders and never really arrives at any true destination.

Although I’ve confirmed that there was no scripted dialogue, I can only assume that the actors were put into scenes and given the basic framework of their characters and the situation(s) involved. While very “real,” it often didn’t hold much interest and at times was even painful to watch the talent try to work their way into and out of scenes. The actors felt wasted, too, particularly Wiest. Meanwhile, I couldn’t decide if I was supposed to feel sorry for or dislike Bergen’s Roberta; maybe the point was that both feelings are simultaneously possible. Of all of them, she was the character with the most personality, even if it wasn’t an entirely likable one. Of course, she seemed to have the most to work with, too—Alice’s prize-winning novel caused Roberta’s marriage to fall apart and left her with nothing. Sadly, despite this prime plot point, the story line ends with a whimper. The whole movie does, really.

Bottom line is, I could have gone on a cruise, walked around eavesdropping on people, come up with some kind of story about them, and been more entertained that way than watching this version of, basically, exactly that. None of the characters were well defined. None of the story lines were clearly delineated. And still, I might have enjoyed it, except it just wasn’t very interesting to Let Them All Talk.

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