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'Let them All Talk': Meryl Streep as Alice Hughes in flawed, compelling story of author and bridges she burnt

'Let them All Talk' releasing on HBO Max on December 10 stars Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen and Diane Weston in lead roles
Lucas Hedges and Meryl Streep (HBO Max)
Lucas Hedges and Meryl Streep (HBO Max)

'Let them All Talk' is an HBO Max original film directed by Academy Award-winner Steven Soderbergh starring three stunning actors -- Meryl Streep, Candice Bergen, and Diane Weston -- as friends who go on an Atlantic crossing that is not life-changing, but compelling. It is about a celebrated and Pulitzer Award-winning author who is at the end of her life and wants to repair the bridges that she had burned in her youth when she had believed that she had all the time in the world to reconcile. This author -- Alice Hughes (Streep) -- has been announced the honorary of a prestigious award that she wants to desperately collect. However, for some reason, she tells her new agent Karen (Gemma Chan) that she cannot fly. She is certain that flying to the UK is out of option and that is when Karen comes up with the plan of sending Alice to the UK on an Atlantic crossing. Alice gets an idea at this suggestion and that is to invite people closest to her. Her two friends Roberta (Bergen) and Susan (Wiest), and her nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges). 

From the very beginning, it is clear that not all is fine between Alice, Susan, and Roberta. Sure Roberta says yes to the trip without a second thought, however, Susan contemplates and takes about two weeks to say yes. After the three of them get on the ship, they have their first supper and things are extremely strained between the friends. The conversation is forced and Tyler as a mute spectator makes this situation seem a lot more comical than it really is. The closer we get to the conflict between the three friends, the more comical it gets but at one point as the dam bursts open, the hatred that Roberta has for Alice comes across as strong and clear. Every time she refused to speak to Alice privately, the time that she ended up canceling their plans last minute, her disinterest is clear. So why did she accept to be a part of this trip?

The repercussions of the book that Alice wrote runs deep, especially so for Roberta, who seems to be the main character in one of Alice's most powerful and popular works of fiction. The character was Rowena and Alice's publishing company also wants a sequel to this book. Initially, it also seems that Alice called Roberta on this trip to get some inspiration for the sequel. Roberta also thinks the same and she says so to Susan. Susan and Roberta begin to spend time together in the absence of Alice and the two discuss how Alice has also changed over the years. When Roberta and Susan sit down to talk to each other for the very first time, Susan tells Roberta that she never thought of her when she had read the book, but Roberta tells Susan that Crawford (her husband) was able to convince the judge otherwise leading to divorce with no alimony or settlement otherwise. The more we see the three friends walk on eggshells around each other, the more curious we get about the book that seems to have created a rift between the friends in the first place.

Removed from these women is Karen, yet connected to Alice as her career depends on what Alice's next manuscript is going to be about. Karen is going through her own struggles and she finds solace in Tyler's company. She reaches out to him to keep an eye out on Alice and the manuscript, but very soon the relationship progresses enough for Karen to confess her darkest trials and Tyler is enchanted by her. A caricature of a millennial woke man himself, all he offers us in the film, is an insight into his aunt's friends who are on the crossing too. For instance, after Roberta's conversation with Tyler, we figure out that the reason she jumped on the offer of accompanying Alice on the crossing was to get exposure. She wanted to meet men of good financial standing that she could depend on after working as a salesperson at a lingerie store for years. She figures that this is an opportunity that she must not miss. Of course, Alice's intentions were to reunite with her friends, but each of them have a reason for being wary around Alice and as the film progresses, layer after layer of their dynamics is revealed to show us that some bridges once burnt cannot be rebuilt. 

While the portrayal of the life of an author who borrows inspiration from her friends and people close to her to write her novels is flawed, what makes this journey compelling is the authenticity. The decision to keep the film as scriptless as possible leaving the actors to improvise on their dialogues on the spot has made the film more a conversation that you overhear, or watch play out than a movie. 

'Let them All Talk' can be streamed on HBO Max on December 10.