Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

“The Laundromat” details Panama Papers scandal

Samuel Casey

News Editor

You know what sucks? Doing laundry. I put it off as long as possible, adding clothes to my hamper like a game of Jenga only with cotton instead of wood. Plus, the machines are al- ways in the middle of a cycle or holding the sopping wet clothes of a stranger which I am too unconfrontational to touch. So when I was recommended a re- cent addition to Netflix called “The Laundromat,” let’s just say I was skeptical. To my deep relief, however, this movie is not about dirty socks but rather the overlooked Panama Papers scandal involving the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca.

The SparkNotes version of the scandal: In 2016, an anonymous whistleblower leaked 11.5 million documents that detailed personal financial information about wealthy individuals and public officials. The documents were created by Mossack Fonseca and were linked to shell corporations (a company with a bank account that does not actu- ally exist except on paper) which were used for fraud, tax evasion and all that good stuff.

The film opens with the masterminds behind the scheme, Jürgen Mossack (Gary Oldman) and Ramón Fonseca (Antonio Banderas), introducing them- selves and acting as omniscient narrators who break the fourth wall. Their first monologue is an explanation of money laundering (oh now I get the title!) through a strange cow and banana analogy while wearing tuxedos and drinking martinis in the desert — it really sets the tone for the rest of the movie. The style is quite similar to Adam McKay’s “The Big Short” or “Vice” where the narrators are used to explain the complicated topics to the audience in a wry, easy-to-follow way.

The film explores three different stories of people who were affected by Mossack Fonseca. The first involves a recent widow (Meryl freakin’ Streep) who is attempting to get compensation from the boating company that caused her husband’s death. Un- fortunately, the insurance policy that the boat company has is tied to a Mossack Fonseca company being investigated for fraud. The widow is obviously mad and goes to Panama to take matters into her own hands. Bonus — the owner of the boat company is Ross Geller who I guess got tired of looking at dinosaur bones.

The second story is about the daughter of an African billionaire who discovers her father having an affair with her college roommate (yikes!). To keep her quiet, Dad gives her shares of one of his investment companies valued at $20 million. Despite the questionable parenting ethics, she goes to Panama to cash in, but learns from Mossack and Fonseca that they are worth (surprise!) nothing since it is one of the shell companies that doesn’t exist.

The final story is based on the real-life Wang Lijun incident in which an English business- man, who was laundering money through a Mossack Fonseca shell for a Chinese family, was poisoned for demanding more money.

The end of the movie shows the leak of the Panama Papers and the downfall of our friends Jürgen and Ramón who claimed ignorance through the whole process by saying that whatever illegal activities done through the shells were the problem of the wealthy individuals who owned them. They went to prison for a hot minute (literally, it was only like three months) and explain to the audience that there are many firms like Mossack Fonseca still in operation all around the world ruining the lives of innocent people. The film concludes with Meryl Streep herself calling for campaign finance reform in the United States.

Overall, it is a comical take on an important issue and a scandal that I never heard much about. It offers an important glimpse into how shell companies are not monitored enough and have a trickle-down effect on people completely uninvolved. Oldman and Banderas work great as a duo and Streep kills it per usual. A must-add to your list!

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