“Let Them All Talk” deserves nods.
Though it may strike some as claustrophobic and compartmentalized, “Let Them All Talk” speaks to and is somewhat representative of the current era we are living in, which finds us sandwiched between a global pandemic and political mayhem, and has left most of us feeling suffocated and closed off from the world, each other, and even ourselves. Along with Spike Lee’s severely underrated “Da 5 Bloods,” this is one of the best films of the year, and one of the best films Meryl Streep has been a part of in over a decade, maybe more.
Streep’s performance as Alice Hughes, an affected and effected celebrated author at the cusp of true physical and metaphysical transcendence, is sublimely subtle, reflective, and moving, though never pandering, Alice is the kind of woman who would, as she herself admits to her nephew toward the end of the film, spend her time “polishing the vase when the house is falling down.” This is a quietly heartbreaking turn by Streep and already ranks as a favorite of mine.
Dianne Wiest and Candace Bergen are equally brilliant as her estranged friends, the former comforting and contemplative, the latter spiteful and vengeful. Bergen illuminates the pain, regret, and flaws of her character, Roberta, with dark wit and sensitivity, reminding us, especially during a scene in which her character desperately attempts to capitalize on a stolen journal, of the fine line between victim and assailant; humanist and capitalist. She is superb.
Wiest’s Susan is an empathic and generous friend with a withheld truth and opinion of her own, and the actress conveys acres of wisdom with just a glance. During a pivotal moment in the film, she stops the increasingly tense dinner proceedings to point out how far removed and detached from reality we have become: “Do you even know what happened yesterday, when we were out of communication with the world?” she asks. “Elon Musk sent many, many telecom satellites into the sky that look exactly like stars… So now, when humans gaze at the sky, they won’t know if they’re gazing at a star or at a machine, and we, at this table - at this very little table - we are among the last, the very last ever to have seen the actual real, the honest, truthful night sky from the ocean. We saw stars; just stars.” It is a moment that thrusts you into a contemplative state that lingers.
The rest of the cast is excellent, too, as are the production values, and Steven Soderbergh directs this with confidence, subtlety, and grace.
In the end, “Let Them All Talk” is really a sensitive rumination on emergence: the emergence of truth, of the spite and vengeance, of the humanist and capitalist, of the pain and regret, and ultimately, of the life and love in us all.
“It’s impossible for me not to think, ‘What a miracle it is that this universe emerged. What a miracle it is that consciousness emerged,’” declares Streep’s Alice halfway through, and in a perfectly placed flashback, at the end of the film. To paraphrase her character, what a miracle it is that this film, with its totally improvised dialogue and cast of brilliantly sensitive actors baring the truths and experiences of their characters so purely, could reach across time and space and my television screen, and reach into my heart and consciousness. That is a miracle; one that I blissfully welcome during these oppressive and unpredictable times.