LET THEM ALL TALK*CUT TO THE CHASE*
NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) is an incredibly successful Pulitzer prize-winning author whose agent has just retired. She has lunch with her new agent, Karen (Gemma Chan), who she is cold to and not impressed with. When Karen asks about her new work, Alice is insulted she would put any pressure on her. She has won the prestigious Footling Prize but is sad that she can’t fly to receive it. Karen has an idea – she will book her on the Queen Mary cruise and she can take a boat to the United Kingdom instead of flying. Alice invites three people to come with her, her two oldest friends and also her nephew.
In Seattle, Susan (Dianne Wiest) is mostly concerned with looking after her down on her luck son and working with parolees. In Dallas, Roberta (Candice Bergen) is working an annoying retail job in a department store. In Cleveland, Tyler (Lucas Hedges) is shocked his friends don’t know who his aunt is. Meanwhile, Karen convinces her boss that she also needs to go along. Alice’s former agent told her Alice was possibly working on a sequel, and she hopes it’s to her most famous book “You Always, You Never”, a book which Alice insists is overrated even though it won the Pulitzer. Her boss makes it clear her job is on the line.
They all meet on the boat, and Alice tells them she won’t be very available having drafts due and a speech to write. She asks Roberta to have a drink with her but she declines. Later, Karen texts Tyler and asks him to meet. She tells him that everyone at the agency is nervous since no one has seen Alice’s new manuscript, and if she doesn’t get it her job is in danger. She asks for Tyler’s help. The next day, Alice tells Tyler that she wants him to look after her friends while she’s busy writing and find out how they’re doing since she can’t tell.
Tyler lets Karen know the details of Alice’s schedule, acting as her spy. The group learns that Kelvin Krantz (Daniel Algrant), a populist mystery writer with lots of fans, is on the boat. The other ladies are thrilled but Alice tells them she finds his prose to be terrible and doesn’t understand it. Alice once again asks Roberta to hang out but Roberta has plans to go to the Masquerade Ball on the ship that evening. Karen asks Tyler to meet and tells her how he saw the manuscript and that Alice said the book was about “trying to catch lightning in a bottle a second time”. Karen hopes it’s a sequel. Tyler opens up to Karen about his father being in jail.
Alice wonders why Roberta would come on the trip and avoid her – it turns out Roberta is trying to find a wealthy man to date on the boat. She’s tired of working a thankless job and wants to find a wealthy husband – her first husband left her with nothing after their messy divorce. The lead character in “You Always, You Never” was named Rowena, and Roberta and her husband thought it was a thinly veiled version of her and due to the book he left her and Roberta tells Susan she feels Alice derailed her life. Meanwhile, Alice goes to the ship library and sees how many more Krantz books there are than hers.
Tyler thinks he sees a man leaving Alice’s room and tells Karen about it. She opens up to him about how she was dating someone seriously and thought they were going to have kids and he suddenly dumped her two months ago. Susan is a big fan of Krantz and wants to meet him but is shy. Alice confesses to the others that she’s hit a wall in her writing, and Roberta tells her she needs a breather and asks her to tea. Tyler takes Karen dancing to the club on the boat.
Later, Krantz ends up approaching Karen, who he knows. He advises her not to approach Alice, saying she will not give her what she wants and that Alice loathes “You Always, You Never”. Susan asks Roberta what she’s going to say to Alice, and she says she’s going to tell her that actions have consequences, but she expects Alice to deny that the book was about her and take no responsibility. She is talking with a man when Alice arrives for tea and so Alice excuses herself.
Alice gives a talk on the boat saying she uses things and people from her life in her books. She also talks about how her favorite author reached through time and space and influenced her and what a miracle that is. At the talk, Krantz asks her a very complimentary question. Later, Alice asks him about his process, and it’s very simple, he just outlines and takes only a few months to write. Krantz talks with Susan about some of the crime stories she has from working with parolees. Alice runs into Karen and Tyler on accident and realizes Tyler likes Karen. Tyler asks her about the man he keeps seeing come from her room – she says he’s the one thing that keeps her going besides Tyler. She has a meeting with Karen.
Karen and Tyler go out for a drink and she apologizes for making him lie and says the only reason Alice forgave her is because of him. He says it’s been a pleasure getting to know her and he’s excited to see what their life looks life moving forward. He asks if he can kiss her, and she realizes he was seeing something different in their relationship than she was. He tells Alice later that his advances were not reciprocated, and she tells him trying is the important part.
Roberta tells Susan she thinks Alice only asked her on the trip to find out what happened after her divorce and write a sequel, but Susan truly believes Alice means well. Alice invites Karen to dinner with the group, where Karen says she hopes Alice’s sequel will be about Rowena. This leads Roberta to bring up Rowena and wanting to know what happened to her, and Alice says the character is based on her – finally, Susan tells them they are both self-obsessed and life is too short for this feud to continue. Alice later tells Tyler she is killing her book – she deleted it from her computer and threw her hard copy away.
The boat arrives in the United Kingdom, where Tyler says goodbye to Karen. At the hotel, Roberta and Alice finally talk. Alice asks her who the real Alice is, and how she can use people’s lives that way. Alice says she uses the people closest to her because there’s an expectation of forgiveness. Alice asks her why she came, and Roberta says she wanted an apology and acknowledgment of the damage she caused in her life. She says she also wants some compensation for it – she says if she’s going to write a sequel, she will tell her everything, she just wants thirty percent of the profits. Alice is shocked, realizing she came just for money and says she’ll write her a check, and says they really lost each other. Roberta says she love her when she was Al.
That night, Alice begins writing. The next day, Tyler goes to her room, and the man he kept seeing answers. It turns out he’s Alice’s doctor and lets him know that Alice died in her sleep the night before from a blood clot – she had a condition called deep vein thrombosis. He explains medically she would have been unable to fly and he advised her not to travel at all but she did anyway. He explains to the group he came along to administer treatments. Roberta asks if an emotional conversation could have caused it, but he says no. Roberta takes Alice’s notebook from her room. The whole trip Alice had spoken about going to see her favorite author’s grave, and Tyler thinks they should go and do it as Alice wanted. They go to the grave and then return home.
Later, Roberta sends the notebook to Karen to see if there’s a way to make money off of Alice’s beginning notes. Karen says she doesn’t think she can do anything with it, and they agree to send it to Tyler. Roberta asks what if she wrote a real-life book about the last thirty years that happened to her, and Karen says if she writes it she’ll be very interested. Meanwhile, Susan, with all her crime knowledge, is now writing with Krantz, who is now represented by Karen. Tyler goes to Alice’s home, now left to him. He sits at her desk, which has pictures of him at it and thinks back on his aunt giving her speech about how her favorite author reached through the universe and made work through her.
Alice Hughes (Meryl Streep) is a famous author whose book agent Karen (Gemma Chan) is hoping to get a new book out of. Alice travels via cruise ship to the United Kingdom to accept an award and invites her nephew Tyler (Lucas Hedges) and her two oldest friends Roberta (Candice Bergen) and Susan (Dianne Wiest).
There is tension between Alice and Roberta because Alice based her most famous novel on Roberta and the fallout resulted in Roberta getting a divorce and losing all her finances. Tyler pursues a romance with Karen but is unsuccessful. Eventually after arriving in the UK, Alice and Roberta finally hash out their problems. Roberta offers to give Alice the information on her life to write a sequel in exchange for money. Alice agrees, but dies in her sleep that evening.
Roberta pitches to Karen writing her own book about her life, and Karen is interested. Susan begins working with a famous mystery writer she met on the boat. Tyler goes to Alice's home and sits at her desk and is inspired by her legacy.