Steven Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk is the unlikeliest film on this list. This largely-improvised, thinly plotted, micro-budgeted movie is the sort of thing Soderbergh throws together on a whim when he sees a short opening on his calendar.
But when you cast Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest, Gemma Chan and Lucas Hedges in that movie, the chances of striking gold increase exponentially.
Shot over two weeks during a transatlantic crossing of the Queen Mary 2, with Soderbergh manning the camera and shooting with natural light, Let Them All Talk features Streep as Alice Hughes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author invited to receive a prestigious award in the UK. She is afraid to fly, so her agent (Chan) arranges for the cruise passage.
Hughes decides to invite two lifelong friends with whom she hasn’t spoken in years (Bergen and Wiest), along with her nephew (Hedges), who is eager to assist and learn more about his famous aunt.
These characters pinball against each other over the course of the journey, conversing about hopes, regrets, missed opportunities and new possibilities. The dialogue is improvised, based around a scripted outline by short story writer Deborah Eisenberg.
All the actors are predictably excellent, creating fully formed characters while tapping into their movie star charisma to make every scene pop. They imbue each conversation with such authenticity that it feels like we’re on an actual cruise, eavesdropping from the next table over.
I was particularly charmed by Hedges, who must have been in heaven spending two weeks at sea acting opposite these legends.
This is another movie that hit me harder because of the pandemic. As a fan of cruises, I loved experiencing this voyage vicariously, not knowing when it will be safe again to sail on the high seas.
I’ve never seen a movie that better captures the experience of cruising: the cyclical nature of each day, the spots you return to again and again, the forced formality of each night’s dinner, the people you repeatedly encounter. I love Let Them All Talk for inviting me aboard.