The upcoming Netflix film The Laundromat has received some criticism online for a scene that sees Meryl Streep playing a Latin American office worker.
The Steven Soderbergh production revolves around the discovery of the Panama Papers, which revealed a global network of corruption, in 2015.
Streep plays duel parts – with the main role being a white American widow investigating the financial arrangements of her late husband.
But, at the halfway point, Streep performs a second role, playing an office worker in a Panamanian law firm specialising in offshore financial services, with bronzed skin, a false nose, a black wig, hip padding, and a Latin accent.
InÂ Vanity Fair, film critic Richard Lawson described it as a â€œbizarre and rather galling unforced error, especially in an era of heightened consciousness about representation and appropriation.â€
Thereâ€™s a chance the sequence is supposed to be comedic, with Streep describing the film as â€œfunny, the way itâ€™s told, but itâ€™s so deadly serious, the intent of the piece.â€ Even so, itâ€™s a very weird choice.
Still, Soderbergh certainly set out to make a fun film from a serious subject.
â€œThe intention was to keep you entertained while we get into these issues,â€Â the director said.
â€œScott Burns reached out to me and said, â€˜Tell me if youâ€™re interested.â€™ Jakeâ€™s book is a compelling, beautifully written retelling of how the story broke from the journalistâ€™s side.â€
â€œI said, â€˜Jake is going to be really important to the film, but I donâ€™t want to make a movie about journalists uncovering a story. Thatâ€™s been done multiple times, and done very well.â€™â€
â€œScott and I had each seen [Argentine DamiÃ¡n Szifronâ€™s film] Wild Tales, a series of stories jumping around the globe, and Scott suggested something similar. I said, â€˜That sounds like fun,â€™ which is not a word usually associated with such a topic.â€
â€œItâ€™s been funny to read some stories about the movie; people assume itâ€™s â€˜All the Presidentâ€™s Men.â€™ I always think, â€œBoy, are they in for a surprise.â€
And, outside of the Vanity Fair review, the outrage does seem to be mostly confined to twitter.
Yikes… Just out of a screening of #TheLaundromat and between Gary Oldman’s German accent and Meryl Streep’s ‘blackface’ this ain’t gonna age well!
â€” Ben from FilmBusters (@filmbustersben) September 11, 2019
There are no pictures of Streepâ€™s secondary character online, so weâ€™ll have to wait until The Laundromat drops on Netflix on 27 September to make up our own minds.