The Laundromat, Steven Soderbergh's upcoming film about the journalists who uncovered the Panama Papers, has gotten mixed reviews since it premiered at the Venice Film Festival earlier this month, ahead of its September 27 release date. From the look of it, though, the discourse is about to get much, much pointed for the film—and especially for its star, Meryl Streep, whose quest to investigate a fraudulent insurance company ultimately leads her to uncover the international scandal.
On Thursday, however, reports began to trickle out that that's only one of Streep's roles in the film. In addition to the white, bucket hat-wearing widow at its center, the three-time Academy Award winner apparently also plays a woman who works in a Panamanian law firm that handles offshore financial services—and who just so happens to be latina. As for how Streep, master of on-screen metamorphosis, pulls off such a transformation, well, we regret to inform you that the film's crew gave her a prosthetic nose, padded her hips, and darkened her complexion with bronzer according to those who have seen the film. As if that weren't bad enough, Streep apparently also adopts what the Independent describes as "an exaggerated if non-specific Latin accent."
Somehow, this largely managed to escape the attention of audience members in Venice. (To be fair, according to Vanity Fair's Richard Lawson, it's (fortunately) "not a huge role.") But the same can't be said for those who've since attended screenings of the film, who are less than pleased with Streep's portrayal, particularly given Hollywood's vast underrepresentation of latinx actors. (In 2016, only 2.7 percent of film roles were played by actors who are latinx.)
To be clear, not everyone who's joined in the outrage over Streep's performance have actually seen the film. But those who have don't exactly offer much hope that the role is better than it sounds when viewed in context. "This is a bizarre and rather galling unforced error, especially in an era of heightened consciousness about representation and appropriation," Lawson continued in his review. "That ugly bit makes the unpleasant suggestion that this is all just a joke for Soderbergh and crew, richies who can’t help themselves to a little non-P.C. in-crowd chuckle while—yes, yes, of course, we don’t mean to laugh—doing the good work of telling poor people how they’re being screwed."
Streep and Soderbergh have yet to comment.