Last night I caught Steven Soderbergh‘s Let Them All Talk (HBO Max, 12.10). Deborah Eisenberg‘s script is about prominent author Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) sharing a trans-Atlantic crossing with two old friends (Candice Bergen, Dianne Wiest), a 20something nephew (Lucas Hedges) and Streep’s 30something editor (Gemma Chan). No reactions until the embargo lifts on the morning of 12.3, but I can at least riff on the general ambiance aboard the Queen Mary 2, upon which 90% of the film unfolds.
Soderbergh shot Let Them All Talk aboard an actual QM2 voyage between New York and Southampton, and so he naturally captured the atmosphere and social climate that would immerse any passenger. And in this narrow sense it’s about luxury, reddish rosey colors, flush vibes, first-class cabins, restaurants, workout salons, cafes, cocktail lounges, waiters and bartenders.
And therefore, from a certain perspective, the film seems to be only incidentally about the fact that they’re travelling across the mighty Atlantic Ocean, and the possibility that there are all kinds of meditative or spiritual benefits to be gained from breathing in that sea air and maybe gazing at the whitecaps and waves, and maybe noticing some smaller vessels or whales or dolphins or (let’s use our imagination) an abandoned 20-foot sailboat with a torn sail, or maybe some kind of Robert Redford-like figure on a life raft, waving for help.
Alas, the vibe aboard the QM2 seems to be almost entirely about what people are eating, what they’re drinking, what they’re reading, what they’re wearing and who they envy. And the decor. What happens among the main characters is fascinating and well worth the passage, but from a certain distance the voyage is all about flush comforts and everyone wanting to savor a quasi-Kardashian lifestyle for seven or eight days, and almost nothing about…hello?…an astonishing atmospheric experience called the fucking Atlantic Ocean.
Yes, I realize this is how things are aboard large sea vessels these days. (And probably were in the old days.) If I were ever to cross the Atlantic I would do so Allie Fox-style, aboard some kind of spartan Merchant Marine vessel. And I would spend a lot of time on deck.